Judges Override Government On Migrants Policy

African migrants walking outside the Holot open detention center in the Negev. (REUTERS/ Amir Cohen)
African migrants walking outside the Holot open detention center in the Negev. (REUTERS/ Amir Cohen)

For the second time in a year, Israel’s High Court has found constitutional fault with the state policy on illegal migrants and voided it, leaving lawmakers again without a solution to the problem.

The judges voted 7-2 on Monday night to order closure of the Holot open detention center in the Negev within 90 days and began lifting restrictions on their movements starting on Wednesday.

The ruling, in effect, rejected the government’s attempts to satisfy a previous ruling on the issue in December 2013, with a more lenient policy.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had given the current policy his full backing, and the court’s decision was a slap in the face.

Some public officials expressed their indignation at the court’s assertion of judicial supremacy without regard to the social consequences.

Interior Minister Gideon Saar said that it destroyed a policy that had been effective in dealing with the illegal migrant population, which had dropped to 48,212 as of June 30 — around 10,000 fewer than it was as its height a few years ago.

The state has arranged for a third country to absorb some of the migrants, in cases where they might face persecution in their home countries, such as Sudan, and has urged others to leave voluntarily, offering a $3,500 monetary incentive.

Human rights groups claim, however, that the detention policy is inhumane, a form of imprisonment for the crime of seeking asylum, and that some who have been deported were indeed subjected to persecution.

There was angry reaction to the ruling in south Tel Aviv, where the highest concentration of the migrant population has triggered numerous protests due to a rise in crime and poverty.

Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Arnon Giladi rallied local residents, with testimonies about the suffering caused them.