Summary: Israeli government announces plans for indefinite detention of asylum seekers who refuse to leave Israel for a third country

On 31st March 2015, Israel’s Ministry of Interior announced that it will begin jailing asylum seekers who refuse to leave Israel for a “third” country (that is, a country which is not their homeland). Asylum seekers detained in the Holot detention facility whose asylum application was rejected, or who did not submit an asylum application, and are offered the chance to leave but refuse will be detained indefinitely in Saharonim prison. Israel has not disclosed the identity of the countries with which it has reached agreements, the guarantees contained in the agreements for the safety of those deported, or what was given to those countries in exchange for accepting asylum seekers from Israel.

According to SRT grantee the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, at least 14 asylum seekers have thus far been told to leave or face the likelihood of indefinite detention, including a number suffering from serious psychiatric problems.

The Hotline, together with fellow Israeli human rights organisations, has written an urgent formal letter to the Minister of Interior and the Attorney General stressing that the new policy violates Israel’s international obligations, Israeli law and previous High Court rulings.

In its correspondence with the Attorney General, the Hotline sets out evidence collected for its recently published report on the fate of asylum seekers who were pressured into “voluntarily” leaving Israel, including to Uganda and Rwanda. Interviews revealed that those sent to Rwanda were not given any long-term status, and were required to leave to Uganda within a few days.

In a related development, the Hotline reported on 21st April that three asylum seekers who left Israel for a third country in the past year have been executed by the Islamic State in Libya for being Christians. The men, all Eritreans (one of whom was a relative of a Hotline staff member), had travelled to Libya because they did not receive assistance in the country they were sent to after leaving Israel.

Full text of Hotline’s letter to the Attorney General:

Article from International Business Times on Eritrean Christians executed by Islamic State:

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