Attorney General axes aggressive police migrant detention policy for misdemeanors

Decision follows recent landmark High Court ruling on migrants.

African migrants transport vegetables in south Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
African migrants transport vegetables in south Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the aftermath of last week’s landmark High Court of Justice ruling, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein on Monday rescinded a government policy initiated in July to detain migrants on misdemeanor charges.
At the time, Weinstein said the new policy was part of greater efforts to control what he called the “significant harm to public order from infiltrators.” Misdemeanors listed included nonviolent crimes such as forgery and use of false identification papers that could result in up to three years of detention.
Until July, the policy was to only detain those who entered the country illegally for violent crimes.
The new policy was viewed as an additional way to punish and deter Eritrean and Sudanese migrants who entered the country illegally as well as to allow the state to immediately deport migrants who arrived here from other countries where they could be returned, as opposed to having to try them criminally.
But on Monday, Weinstein said that his office’s analysis of the legal implications of the High Court’s ruling last week, beyond the immediate and obvious order to release in some fashion within 90 days around 2,000 migrants from special detention at Saharonim in the South, dictated reevaluating other policies as well, such as the July policy for detention of migrants on misdemeanor crimes.
Weinstein said he had issued formal orders to the police and to the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) to immediately stop detaining migrants for misdemeanors.
He said the policy itself had been based on the concept and expectation that many migrants, including those committing misdemeanors, could be held in detention for three years outside of the standard legal system.
The attorney-general added that the step was taken also to better facilitate a deeper evaluation of the status of those 2,000 migrants who must be released in some fashion within 90 days, implying that adding more migrants into that already unstable situation would only further complicate matters.
Significantly, Weinstein revealed some of his initial thoughts on the general question of what to do with last week’s High Court decision which shattered the government detention of migrant’s policy into shambles.
He noted that each migrant’s case would need to be reviewed both to see if there were concrete grounds for release and to see if there were objections to specific individuals being released due to threats they might pose to “the public order.”
Weinstein said he would continue to use those parts of the Law for Prevention of Infiltrators that were not part of the newer June 2012 Amendment, which the High Court struck down to investigate the question of releasing each individual migrant.
Weinstein’s invocation of public order recalled his announcement of the July policy which he said he hoped would “reduce the significant harm to public order and increase feelings of security” in the areas where significant numbers of migrants live.
The now rescinded July policy had been his response to the Interior and Public Security Ministries appealing to him to give them stronger tools for what they characterized as still uncontrollable and undeterred widespread criminal behavior by migrants.