C'tee to debate DNA database on Africans migrants

Knesset C'tee on Foreign Workers to hold hearing following report that police gathered DNA from imprisoned African migrants to solve crimes.

Saharonim Prison 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Saharonim Prison 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers will hold a hearing on Wednesday following a report that the Israel Police has illegally compiled a DNA database of African migrants, committee chairwoman MK Michal Roisin (Meretz) said on Thursday.
“It appears that the Israel Police has opened a dangerous door by founding a database of this sort. This decision must be brought before a public debate because of the consequences it poses to personal privacy of residents of the country,” Roisin said.
The announcement came hours after Haaretz published a story describing how the police, as a way to help solve crimes, has for the past year been collecting DNA samples of migrants who have illegally crossed the border into Israel, during their incarceration at the Saharonim detention camp in the South.
Senior police officials tried and failed to get public or Knesset approval for such a DNA database, but nonetheless began collecting samples from migrants at Saharonim on the grounds that by entering the country, those migrants have committed a security-related crime, the article reported. In 2012, police opened more than 600 such cases of security crime against African migrants.
Though the Haaretz report states that “as far as is known, police have not solved any crimes as a result of such DNA sampling,” Tel Aviv police have in recent months publicly credited the database as being key to solving a number of crimes involving migrants in the city.
One such example is Rubal Fadul, the suspect in the December 2012 rape and beating of an 83-year-old woman in south Tel Aviv, who police said they found through a DNA sample taken from inside the victim’s body, which matched a sample taken from Fadul when he was brought in on a theft arrest months earlier.
In another case in late March, police said a DNA sample led them to a 23- year-old Sudanese man who they suspect brutally beat and raped a Filipina foreign worker in a parking lot on Wolfson Street in south Tel Aviv. In those cases, police have credited the DNA with helping them track possible offenders among the tens of thousands of African migrants in Tel Aviv and elsewhere – the police lacks both officers who speak the languages of migrants, as well as sufficient street-level sources or intelligence to track them down easily.
In March, Tel Aviv police distributed to the press statistics on crime in the district in 2012.
According to the figures, from 2011 to 2012 there was a 53.2 percent increase – to 1,048 from 684 – in the number of Sudanese and Eritreans named as suspects in crimes. In that same period, there was a 45 percent increase – to 1,092 from 753 – in the number of criminal cases opened against African migrants.
Following Thursday’s Haaretz report, the Hotline for Migrant Workers said: “Israeli authorities failed to collect DNA data from African asylum-seekers in other ways, and thus decided to circumvent the law and accuse some of them in illegal entry to Israel.
“The ‘side effect’ of this illegal action is a significant rise in the criminal files opened for Africans, which creates the wrong impression that more of them are involved in criminal activity,” the organization said.
“It also assists the authorities in administratively detaining Africans under the criminal procedure of the Anti-Infiltration Law, according to which asylum-seekers can be detained indefinitely if they have a ‘criminal background,’ even if no charges are pressed against them,” the Hotline said.