NGO: Special migrant courts significantly defective

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.

November 29, 2016 08:05
1 minute read.
African refugees

AFRICAN MIGRANTS sit on pipes outside Holot, a detention centre in Israel’s southern Negev desert.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A pro-migrant NGO released on Tuesday a report describing 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.

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

Now the NGO, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, says that the new courts are systematically blocking migrants from a fair appeal and were essentially set up to close the door on migrants being freed from detention or obtaining refugee status.

The report notes that only 5 percent of appeals, 26 out of 502, have been accepted, proving that the appeals courts do not take the cases as seriously as the District Courts once did.

Further, the report says that most migrants are too poor to hire lawyers, which means that many of them are unable to file an appeal. The change of venue also may have helped District Court judges caseload, but with 5,741 cases filed in 18 months and the migrant courts only handling around 700 cases per year, it imposed years of waiting on migrants.

The special courts rarely hold hearings, deciding mostly based on written submission, which the NGO called denying migrants a real day in court.

Moreover, the courts do not publish system-wide information or explanations of rulings and they do not grant migrants and their lawyers their expenses in recognition when they win a case - though that is the practice in most standard civil court rulings.

In light of these factors, the report says that Israel should hire many more judges, create a database for rulings being issues, including to enforce positive rulings for migrants as precedent, to provide special training to judges to be sensitive to migrants needs and to hold off on opening a new special migrant court in the North until the defects are resolved.

There are around 45,000 illegal African migrants in Israel which the Government has tried to encourage to leave the country by detentions and offers of a few thousand shekels.

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