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The New Arab

Israel is detaining hundreds of asylum seekers without trial

Africans in Israel have long complained of discrimination and structural racism [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 September, 2017

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A freedom of information request has revealed that Israeli authorities are bypassing judicial processes to detain asylum seekers for lengthy periods of time.
Hundreds of African asylum seekers have been detained by Israel without trial, according to data recently released by the country's population, immigration and border authority.

The information was made available after a freedom of information request filed on behalf of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrant Workers.

The data indicates that Israeli authorities are effectively bypassing judicial processes to detain people who have already completed prison sentences and suspected criminals that have insufficient evidence against them for a prosecution.

As justification for the practice, authorities cite a clause in the 'Entry into Israel Law' that allows the detention of individuals whose release "endangers state security, public safety or public health".

The newly released data shows that between January 2016 to March 2017, a total of 311 citizens of Sudan and Eritrea were detained without trial, according to Haaretz.

Of that number, 223 were suspected of crimes, while the remaining 88 were kept in detention after serving out their sentences.

In one case, an asylum seeker was held for a further 14 months after having served his sentence.

Despite criticising the practice, Israel's high court of justice has not prohibited the detention without trial of asylum seekers.

"The state deprived 311 people of the right to due process over the past 18 months," Hotline Executive Director Reut Michaeli was quoted by Haaretz as saying.

"That means 311 people did not receive legal counsel or representation and were not brought to court. The state created a separate justice system for people with a different skin color... If you're an African asylum seeker, your liberty is simply worth less," he added.

The population, immigration and border authority, which is part of the interior ministry, says that it has acted in acordance with "guidelines authorised by the then-attorney general, and reaffirmed a number of times in the courts, including the supreme court".

African Jews and asylum seekers from the continent have long complained of racial discrimination in Israel.

Earlier this year, the Israeli government appeared to step up its offensive against African immigrants with a new law that financially pressures them into leaving the country.

The law obliges employers of Jews of Sudanese and Eritrean origins are to deduct 20 percent of their wages if they have temporary visas.

The deductions are put into a fund, which can only be accessible after they leave the country. 

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