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Two agricultural companies and two Sudanese refugees have petitioned the High Court of Justice to reprimand Hadera Mayor Haim Avitan for allegedly using force and deceit to illegally expel 20 refugees who were picking fruit for the companies from an orchard within city limits.
The incident occurred on the night of July 26, when the "Hadera security patrol," armed with pistols and wearing clothing similar to police uniforms, allegedly broke into the refugees' camp, located in the orchard, and forcibly loaded them onto a bus while threatening them.
The bus dumped them at the Rose Garden in Jerusalem, where many other African refugees have also been taken because no government body has taken responsibility for them.
The petitioners, represented by the Adam law firm, quoted Avitan as saying after the expulsion, "It cannot be that Hadera should serve as the country's garbage can."
These Sudanese refugees were among the first to cross into Israel from Egypt. Almost all of them came from Darfur. Israel regarded the refugees as infiltrators from a hostile country and kept them in jail for a year. During the first year of their incarceration, some of the women and younger refugees were allowed to leave prison and live and work on kibbutzim. By the end of the year, when it became clear that the state's policy on the refugees was unclear, the government began finding supervised work for the men.
One group of 20 (originally 22) were recruited to pick fruit for Ashkenazi Agricultural Services and Oz Hadar. The arrangement was approved by officials in the Defense Ministry and the army. The refugees were not considered foreign workers and did not require work permits.
According to the petitioners, the group slept inside the orchard where they worked, in the Beit Eliezer quarter of Hadera - where the mayor also lives. The petitioners charged that prior to the expulsion, Avitan was embroiled in a dispute with the government officials over their demands to allow other Sudanese refugees to work for the city. The petitioners added that the 20 refugees employed by the agricultural companies were spotted at a mall in the residential part of the neighborhood near the orchard. At that point, they charged, Avitan decided to send a message that refugees were not welcome in Hadera.
On the evening of July 26, a policeman came to the refugees' encampment and asked to see their papers. He appeared satisfied and left. The petitioners charged that Avitan had sent in the police in the hope that they would expel the workers, but the police had found their papers in order.
That night, the mayor sent in his own armed and uniformed "security patrol."
"The municipal workers roused the refugees, ordered them to pack up what they could in a short amount of time, and put them on the bus, which had been hired in advance," wrote the petitioners. "They weren't told where or why they were going or any other details. Everything that happened during the incident - the timing, the fact that the 'guards' carried weapons, the way they spoke to the refugees, the appearance of the city hall employees as having authority - all of this was aimed at instilling fear in the hearts of the refugees."
The Hadera municipal spokesman's office said in response to the allegations that "all the actions were carried out according to law, contrary to what the petition says. There was never any use of arms by members of the Hadera security patrol. The municipality of Hadera and its residents are absolutely determined not to allow an illegal invasion of Sudanese refugees into its territory."