Ministry of Interior Lod office 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Lod office of the Interior Ministry’s Population Immigration and Border
Authority opened its doors to the public on Tuesday, after over a month-long
closure that NGOs, migrant workers, and asylum- seekers said has caused serious
problems for those seeking government papers allowing them to legally reside in
Israel without facing the fear of arrest or deportation.
RELATED:Cohen: Need national plan to deal with African migrants Refugees protest in TA: 'We are not diseased' South TA residents demand African migrants leave area
The office is
the only one in Israel that gives out “conditional release” permits for illegal
migrants once they are released from Israeli detention facilities after entering
Israel. The permit isn’t a work visa and doesn’t award refugee status, rather,
it gives the holder 90 days to reside in the country legally.
doors of the office closed since the end of November, those who have been sent
there to receive the forms or have existing ones renewed have found themselves
instead roaming the streets without any proof they can remain in Israel without
facing deportation or incarceration.
On November 28, the city of Lod
informed the Interior Ministry that they would be closing the facility for a
month to do renovations.
The statement added that the renovations would
require the use of heavy machinery that could endanger the hundreds of migrants
who wait outside the building on weekdays, and asked the ministry to measures to
prevent the migrants from gathering outside the building in downtown
The building is one of the first sights that greet visitors entering
Lod. On most days, hundreds of foreigners, the overwhelming majority of them
African, throng the front lawn and adjacent sidewalks of the building, across
from the old Lod City Hall.
Yoram Ben-Arush, spokesman for the Lod
Municipality told The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday that the office was closed
mainly because of the danger posed by the construction work, but also because
“you have hundreds of infiltrators and migrants standing outside in the sun and
in the rain, many of them waiting for hours on end and taking care of their
Ben-Arush said the sight of the hundreds of migrants
standing outside all day long in the sun and rain creates an “inhumane”
He also said the state “must find a way to treat them as human
beings, even if they did come as infiltrators.”
Ben-Arush added that the
city wants the facility moved out of Lod entirely, saying “it has nothing to do
with racism but we already have a weak population in Lod and over the years we
have taken in many weak populations including [Palestinian] collaborators and
immigrants, we don’t need to take in another weak population
Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the Population, Immigration, and
Borders Authority, said the decision over the fate of the facility lies with the
city of Lod, and that the authority has been given another 6 months until to
move the office elsewhere.
She added “no local authority wants this
facility in their city, though.”
Dara Levy-Bernstein, who performs her
national service at the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) helping with
asylum assistance projects, said the closure of the building caused serious
setbacks for many migrants, who need the documents issued at the facility to
avoid being thrown back into detention.
“What this closure has meant is
that people who are sent here after they’re released aren’t able to receive
their 90-day conditional release form and they end up walking the streets
without the only sort of document that could keep them from getting
Levy-Bernstein added that migrants who have been turned away
at the facility have shown up at the Tel Aviv offices of the ARDC “in a panic”,
adding that she had heard reports of migrants sleeping on the street outside the
facility over the past month, waiting for the doors to open and wary of walking
the streets without papers.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Africans crowded
inside the building as a heavy rain poured outside. After several hours,
migrants began trickling out, clutching their papers, for the first time in over