Judge slams mishandling of asylum request by Eritrean

Calls authorities’ decision to reject Heilo Tigset "factually baseless and arbitrary, with a predetermined aim."

By RON FRIEDMAN
May 3, 2011 03:44
2 minute read.
A gavel strikes at the issuing of justice

311_gavel. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Tel Aviv Administrative Court Judge Rami Amir, slammed the Interior Ministry on Monday for its treatment of an Eritrean migrant requesting collective protection from the state.

In his ruling, the judge said the ministry’s attempts to refuse asylum to 20-year-old Heilo Tigset was “not only factually baseless, but seemingly tainted by arbitrariness and extraneous considerations, with a predetermined aim.”

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Amir made the statement as part of his ruling on a petition submitted by Tigset, and her Israeli partner, over the ministry’s refusal to grant her a temporary visa – as it does to all Eritrean nationals.

Additionally, the ministry refused to recognize the validity of the couple’s relationship, which would enable Tigset to initiate a gradual process of gaining permanent status.

The state challenged both parts of the petition, first arguing that Tigset was not Eritrean, but rather Ethiopian, and therefore not deserving of the collective protection afforded by Israel to Eritreans; and secondly, challenging the authenticity of the relationship and the motives of the request.

Tigset entered Israel illegally in June 2008, after crossing the border from Egypt. Upon her arrival she was apprehended by the army and placed under arrest. Since her first encounter with the Israeli authorities she claimed to be Eritrean – a fact that was initially accepted by the ministry officials, but changed a year later, after Tigset had been freed from custody.

In March 2010, Tigset was arrested by Oz Unit inspectors, and told that she had to leave the country.

According to the state, it was determined that Tigset was not Eritrean, following an interview when she was in custody during which she failed to present sufficient knowledge of life in Eritrea, or speak the country’s native language.

In his ruling the judge said that this lack of familiarity with the ways of Eritrea, was understandable since Tigset was born in Eritrea – but left at a young age after the death of her parents in favor of Ethiopia, where she lived with her uncle for most of her life.

Moreover, the judge said that at a later hearing held at the UN Refugee commissioner’s office, Tigset was interviewed in Tigre and understood all that was asked of her, and to responded in that language.

Changing its course of argument, the state then said that because Tigset possessed dual citizenship from Eritrean and Ethiopian, she was not eligible for the collective protection granted to Eritreans. To this, the judge responded that even though the state was correct in its general assessment, Tigset was not eligible for Ethiopian citizenship unless she gave up her Eritrean citizenship, which the state had failed to acknowledge.

On the question of the authenticity of the couple’s relationship, the judge said that the interior ministry – which found discrepancies in a session of separate hearings held for the couple – had ignored explanations that could clear up the discrepancies, and lied about the number of hearings held for the couple.

The judge concluded by ordering the interior ministry to grant Tigset a visa for a year, and open a file in her name enabling her to initiate a gradual process of gaining permanent status as the partner of an Israeli. He added that if in the course of the year the ministry decided to stop her gradual process, it be ordered to grant her the same special temporary visa granted to all other Eritreans.


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