In protests and marches throughout the country, asylum seekers are making their voices heard.
Kicking off a month of continuous protests, a group of around 200 Sudanese asylum seekers marched to Jerusalem in an attempt to gain official recognition of their refugee statuses. Most of the marchers have been imprisoned for almost two years and none of their asylum requests – which were filed with the assistance of NIF grantee Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (previously Hotline for Migrant Workers) – have been answered. Following the protest, they were arrested and transferred to Saharonim Prison, where they will be detained for two months before being returned to the newly established Holot detention center.
Meanwhile, flagship NIF grantee and NIFC-supported Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Hotline submitted a petition to the High Court for Justice seeking to overturn a draconian new law — passed a week ago — pertaining to refugees and asylum seekers. According to the legislation, anybody crossing Israel’s border without a permit is detained for a year and then transferred to an “open facility.” Once in the open facility, all residents are required to report for a roll call three times a day, making it almost impossible to leave or work. The facility is not officially considered a prison. Migrants can be kept there indefinitely.
Previous litigation initiated by NIF grantees resulted in a unanimous decision of the Israel’s High Court that struck down a similar law. It is unclear how long it might take for the court to rule, once again, on the issue.
During last week’s Knesset debate on the legislation to hold the asylum seekers in detention, Knesset Member Nachman Shai (Labor) lamented that, with this new law, Israel was implementing a “policy that ignores the founding values of the state.”
Israelis and asylum seekers protest in Jerusalem. The sign on the left reads: “We were also refugees.”
Sigal Rozen, from the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants said: “The confusion and frustration among them [the asylum seekers] is great as neither they, nor we, know what to expect. Since many of them did not see the difference between the new facility and the old one, they decided to protest their prolonged detention and the intention to keep them in the new ‘open prison’ without a time limit and without judicial review.”