High Court rejects request to freeze new migrant policy

Court decision means order for migrants to move to new "open" detention center still valid.

Eritrean migrants protesting 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Eritrean migrants protesting 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel on Wednesday rejected a request from a group of human rights organizations to freeze the state’s new migrant policy until the court ruled on the organizations’ earlier petition.
The petition, which the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Hotline for Refugees and Migrant Workers filed on December 15, seeks to strike down the new policy.
Hendel – ruling alone on the issue, as often occurs with requests for interim freeze orders – said that since the Knesset had crafted a complex new legislative scheme to handle the issue, it would be improper to freeze the policy without a full hearing.
The decision means that the 500-plus orders that the state has sent migrants, requiring them to come to the new “open” detention center in the Negev, continue to have legal standing, since it is unlikely there will be a ruling on the full petition ahead of their deadline for arriving at the center.
In their petition, the two human rights groups claimed that even the changes in the new policy still violated the court’s mid-September decision declaring the old policy and certain aspects of the detention unconstitutional.
The old policy permitted placing migrants in detention for up to three years pending determination of their refugee status.
Under the new policy, migrants who illegally cross the border after the legislation’s passage can be placed in detention for up to one year pending determination of their status. Migrants who were already illegally in Israel prior to the new policy may be detained indefinitely in the “open” detention center, which lets them leave during daylight hours but must report back at night. The center is located in an isolated desert area.
Those migrants who violate the terms of the “open” detention center and those accused of certain crimes can also be placed in closed detention.
Since the new policy’s enactment in December, migrants have staged numerous demonstrations against it, including refusing to return to the “open” center.
The state has reacted by arresting many migrants who refused to go back to the center.
Residents of south Tel Aviv, where many migrants reside, have mostly been satisfied with the new policy, though they have filed a separate petition to block any migrants who have been released from detention from returning to south Tel Aviv.