Asylum seekers in Israel
Both Israel and Australia face challenges regarding asylum seekers and refugees and, in both countries, there have been attempts by some to dehumanise asylum seekers.
Last week, Israel’s High Court of Justice overturned the 2012 Anti-Infiltration Law, under which some 2,000 women, men and children were being detained for at least three years, most in a specially constructed camp in the Negev, without trial and under harsh conditions. The Court held that prolonged administrative detention of asylum seekers violates Israel’s Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty and disproportionately impinges on a person’s right to freedom.
The majority of the detainees are citizens of Eritrea and Sudan – countries to which their citizens, according to the Israeli government’s own directives, cannot be returned due to the threat that would present to their lives.
The petitioners included New Israel Fund grantees the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Kav La’oved and the Hotline for Migrant Workers.
The decision of the Court adds to its reputation as a pillar of Israel’s democracy and will assist those seeking to reintroduce humanity into the conversation about asylum seekers in Australia. But some in the Knesset are already speaking out about re-legislating “anti-infiltration” measures and even against the High Court’s authority to overrule such unconstitutional legislation.
Other NIF grantees working in this area include Power in the Community, which brings refugees and residents of South Tel Aviv together to work for better access to education, health care and other necessities, and Physicians for Human Rights, which operates a health clinic for asylum seekers.
Robin Margo is president of the New Israel Fund Australia