Israeli court: Illegal African immigrants have rights

Sept. 17, 2013 at 7:39 AM
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JERUSALEM, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- In a unanimous ruling, Israel's Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law allowing illegal African migrants to be held without trial for three years.

The nine-judge panel gave the state 90 days to examine the cases of about 1,750 illegal African migrants currently detained in a facility in southern Israel, Haaretz reported. The Monday ruling will also affect the tens of thousands of African migrants who entered the country illegally and settled in Tel Aviv.

The judges noted the amendment to the Anti-Infiltration Law initiated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in June 2012, that permits migrants to be detained for as long as three years without charge, harms the constitutional right to freedom set forth in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, reported.

The court said the state must review the situation on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the Entry into Israel Law, which permits individuals who entered the country illegally to be detained for as long as 60 days unless deportation procedures are under way, Haaretz said. If there is no justification for detaining the migrants they must be released, the paper said.

"We can't negate basic and fundamental rights while blatantly injuring the human dignity and liberty in the framework of solving problems that require an appropriate diplomatic and systematic solution," The Wall Street Journal quoted the ruling written by Judge Edna Arbel as saying.

"The outcome of this decision will not be easy for the Israeli public and it will be particularly difficult for residents of south Tel Aviv. ... The solution to the plight of the neighborhood residents cannot be, and should not be found, in the form of legislation allowing the holding of thousands of people ... in detention facilities, for an unlimited period of time," said in quoting the ruling.

To stem the flow of African migrants crossing into Israel from Egypt illegally, the government sought to introduce procedures that would lead to their incarceration or deportation. A special facility to hold them was built in the south. With the construction of the security fence along the border with Egypt, the number of illegal African migrants entering the country has decreased.

The tens of thousands of illegal African migrants residing in southern Tel Aviv have led to serious social friction. Local residents say crime has escalated and citizens are afraid to walk the streets. On the other hand, human rights groups have protested the African migrants are abused, and those who find jobs often are underpaid and afforded no rights.

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