Pro, anti migrant groups vie for high ground ahead of High Court ruling

High Court of Justice expected to rule on constitutionality of the state's reconfigured migrant policy by Monday.

AFRICAN MIGRANTS sit on pipes outside Holot, a detention centre in Israel’s southern Negev desert. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AFRICAN MIGRANTS sit on pipes outside Holot, a detention centre in Israel’s southern Negev desert.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the High Court of Justice expected to rule on the constitutionality of the state’s reconfigured migrant policy by Monday, both pro- and anti-migrant groups are vying for the high ground on the issue.
The pro-migrant Hotline for Refugees and Migrants on Wednesday released a report slamming the state for allegedly improperly increasing pressure on detained illegal migrants to leave the country, while simultaneously making life in the Holot open-detention center less tolerable.
Earlier in the week, anti-migrant figures, including Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Arnon Giladi, rallied under the banner of “Breaking the Silence Via the Infiltrators,” with speeches and testimonies from local south Tel Aviv residents about crime and pressures they say they have experienced due to the immense volume of migrants in their area.
In September 2013, a landmark 9-0 High Court decision struck down the state’s old migrant policy as unconstitutional, giving it 90 days to release thousands of detained migrants or to construct a new policy.
In December 2013, the state completed a lightning-fast legislative process with the Knesset’s approval of a new migrant policy, which among other things shifted from a focus on placing thousands of migrants in closed detention for up to three years to placing many of them in indefinite open detention.
Shortly after it was initiated, several groups petitioned the High Court to strike down the policy, with the groups and many international critics, as well as State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, saying that the new policy equally violated migrants’ fundamental rights.
A decision is expected by Monday, as that is the last day that the recently retired Supreme Court justice, Edna Arbel, who authored the court’s 2013 decision on migrant policy and participated in arguments on the current petition, would be able to sign the opinion.
In Wednesday’s pro-migrant report, it was noted that Interior Ministry and Population and Immigration Borders Authority officials have recently been engaging detained migrants in Holot more aggressively to convince them to leave the country “voluntarily,” including with a $3,500 monetary incentive.
The report complained that these representatives were concealing from the migrants that no one in the countries they would be transferred to if they agreed to a “voluntary” transfer would look after their physical or economic well-being.
This comes amid reports that many migrants who have left Israel may have been harmed, tortured or are otherwise without any means of stability or support in their new countries.
Next, the report claimed that the state has placed new obstacles on the movement of migrants from the open-detention center, including forcing them to go through biometric finger print checks in order to exit.
The group said that the state had failed to explain to it or to the migrants the reason for the use of what it labeled invasive checks or how it was using the information.
Moreover, the report said that the migrants’ NIS 16 per day allowance had been arbitrarily and seemingly punitively cut back in certain instances without explanation.
In addition, the report claimed that of the several state agencies responsible for the welfare of the migrants, no one agency was taking responsibility for the migrants’ health needs, and that sometimes there were gross deficiencies in meeting those needs.
At the anti-migrant event hosted by Giladi, the deputy mayor said, “the time has arrived to break the silence and to tell the story of what has happened to us.”
He added, “I invite the Supreme Court justices to spend one night walking around our streets, which were once south Tel Aviv, and have unfortunately transformed into a state of all of its infiltrators.”
“We suffer every day the harsh phenomenon of violence, rape and theft, which the eyes of the judicial system and the media ignore,” he said.