African migrants take part in a protest against Israel's detention policy toward them.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Under legal pressure by a group of NGOs, Interior Minister Arye Deri on Thursday retracted his order to expel hundreds of Congolese migrants who had lived in Israel for about 15 years.
On January 1, the Jerusalem District Court had already frozen the state’s plan to expel the Congolese migrants on January 5.
The court had also ordered the state to respond in writing by January 7 to a petition by several NGOs to block the expulsions. After several postponements, the state informed the court on Thursday that the Foreign Ministry had updated Deri regarding the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the interior minister had decided to retract his expulsion order.
In October, the state removed the temporary protected status it had given hundreds of Congolese migrants for 15 years, leading to immediate opposition from the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.
Initially, the NGO attacked the policy shift – coordinated by Deri, the Population Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) and the Foreign Ministry – as being problematic because it was not publicly announced effectively.
There was a posting on PIBA’s website, but if relevant migrants did not know to look on the website for the notice, it would not necessarily have reached them.
According to the Hotline, the policy shift meant that all Congolese would need to leave Israel within 90 days, or by January 5, as the ministries determined there was no legal bar to their deporting them from Israel.
The NGO’s petition to the court had added more extensive arguments, including that any government opinion saying that it was now safe to send the Congolese migrants back flew in the face of numerous international sources indicating that the situation in the Congo is highly volatile and could explode at any time into civil war.
Though historic democratic elections were held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in December, the country, which has been ruled since 2001 by dictator Joseph Kabila, had numerous reports of ongoing brutal arrests of political opponents and controversy over the impending results.
These reports had said that false accusations are being made against members of the opposition along with government forces carrying out executions without trial and torture.
In addition, armed clashes in the Congo could include serious war crimes and have led to the flight of millions of displaced persons and refugees to neighboring countries.
Further, the World Health Organization has previously warned of the spread of the Ebola epidemic throughout the Congo. Reports have said that Congolese women are routinely raped as part of the ongoing fighting and persecution between ethnic groups.
The Hotline and the other NGOs called on the court to block any process to deport the Congolese migrants at least until the dust settles.
The petitioners had also demanded that the state publicize its legal opinion on which the expulsion of the Congolese migrants is based.
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