Hope for refugees from Africa - Israel must ensure constitutional minimum standards
Israel's Supreme Court declares internment of refugees to be unconstitutional
Göttingen, 17. September 2013
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) welcomes a decision which was announced by the Israeli Supreme Court on Monday, declaring the ongoing internment of refugees to be unconstitutional because this disrespects their dignity and personal freedom. "The Supreme Court's ruling is a slap in the face for the xenophobic politics of the Israeli Government," said the STP's Africa-consultant, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Tuesday. "There is new hope for politically persecuted people from Eritrea who are seeking protection in Israel." Currently, there are about 2,000 refugees interned in camps, based on the laws that were now found unconstitutional. They are also threatened with arbitrary deportations. Israeli human rights organizations had already criticized deportations without any further investigations to be unlawful. Israel should offer protection to the political refugees and refrain from deporting them to third countries. Following the Supreme Court's decision, applications for asylum must now be checked individually within 90 days.
In January 2012, the Israeli parliament had amended a law from 1954 that allows illegal immigrants to be detained for up to three years without a proper trial – as a measure of reducing the influx of refugees. According to estimates, there are more than 60,000 illegal immigrants and refugees from Africa living in Israel – especially from Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan. In order to keep them away, Israel recently built a several meters high border fence across the Sinai and has reinforced the border installations. While almost 2,300 refugees managed to cross the border in January 2012, the number fell to only about a dozen by December 2012 – according to the Israeli Government.
Many of the refugees are traumatized became they fell victim to human traffickers in Sinai. Even before reaching the border, they were tortured in order to force their families to pay ransom money to set them free. A great number of refugees are on the run from the serious political and religious persecutions in Eritrea. Israel had planned to deport several thousand refugees to Uganda in October, after the Jewish holidays. There had been reports that Uganda had been offered weapons as a reward for accepting the refugees, but these reports were officially denied.
Ulrich Delius is available for further questions: +49 (0)551-49906-27.
Translated by Robert Kurth