Panel to ask if gov’t is hiding report on granting migrants refugee status

“Some of the detainees are asylum seekers whom their request for asylum was rejected but they still fear returning to their home country."

January 23, 2017 03:28
2 minute read.

African migrants in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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The Knesset State Control Committee will hold a special hearing on Monday demanded by three opposition parties about claims that the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority is concealing an internal legal opinion that states that Darfur migrants to Israel should be given refugee status.

MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union), MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) and MK Dov Henin (Joint List) jointly requested the special hearing.

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The basic argument comes down to whether migrants who cross the border into Israel illegally must be allowed to stay as refugees because they will be persecuted if they return to their countries of origin or whether they came for mere economic reasons and can be deported.

If PIBA had a report concluding that Sudanese migrants from Darfur could not return safely, international law would require granting them refugee status.

In recent months, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and HIAS have published multiple reports accusing the state of abuse on the migrants issue.

In December, the hotline published a report stating that dozens of migrants have been held in the Givon and Saharonim prison facilities for many years on unreasonable grounds and without being deported.

According to data collected by the hotline, in December 2015, 142 persons without status had been detained in Saharonim for over six months.

Of this number, 82 had been detained for over one year, 41 for over two years, 20 for over three years, and several have been detained for five to six years.

The report said that “in most cases the detention is extended for reasons that are beyond the migrants’ control such as: lack of valid travel documents, lack of state recognition of their legal status, which prevents them obtaining travel documents, lack of representation of the country of origin in Israel and communication difficulties or mental problems that prevent collaboration with the deportation process.

“Some of the detainees are asylum seekers whom their request for asylum was rejected but they still fear returning to their home country. These people are left in custody for an unlimited period of time.”

In late November, the Hotline and HIAS issued a report slamming the special migrant court system set up in May 2014 as “defective” with “many failures.”

Prior to May 2014, there were special migrant courts, but appeals from those courts went up to standard civilian district courts, ensuring that poor decisions were reviewed at a high level.

The new special migrant appeals court were opened in Beersheba, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, removing the burden from the district courts to lessen their caseload.

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