Court prohibits detention of Sudanese refugees days before mass arrests begin

A Jerusalem court issued a temporary injunction on Thursday, prohibiting the detention of Sudanese refugees. The group was slated for arrest and forced transfer to a prison camp in the Negev desert beginning on October 15.

The court’s move comes in response to an October 3 petition, filed by the Clinic for Migrants’ Rights at the Academic Center of Law and Business, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Hotline for Migrant Workers, ASSAF Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, the African Refugee Development Center (ADRC), and Kav La’Oved, as well six African asylum seekers. The petition was filed against Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Defense Minster Ehud Barak, and the government’s legal counsel, and requested the court to issue an injunction stopping Yishai and the others from jailing refugees.

Yesterday’s ruling–which was issued by Jerusalem District Court Judge Nava Ben-Or, and which comes just three days before the arrests were scheduled to begin–means that the detention of Sudanese asylum seekers is temporarily delayed, pending a final decision on the petition. A hearing on the matter will take place October 30.

According to ACRI, “the Minister of the Interior’s policy would result in thousands of Sudanese asylum seekers along with their children being hunted down, arrested en masse, and detained indefinitely in extreme conditions in the desert.  Included among these people are survivors of genocide in Darfur and atrocities in other areas.”

ACRI attorney Oded Feller remarks:

The asylum requests of Sudanese citizens are not even checked, and in any event, it is not possible to deport them from Israel in a way that will safeguard their welfare. The decision to imprison asylum seekers from Sudan and their children for indefinite terms in extreme desert conditions is exceptionally cruel. Regrettably, the Prime Minster and Attorney General are not willing to restrain the Minister of the Interior, and therefore a petition must be brought to the court.

Israel is home to approximately 60,000 African refugees, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea. Israel began deporting South Sudanese refugees this past June.