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Israel strikes down law targeting African migrants

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-17

Israel’s supreme court has revoked a law that allowed authorities to hold African migrants in detention for up to three years, in a move cheered by rights groups and criticised by hardliners as a threat to the country’s Jewish character.

Israel’s supreme court on Monday struck down a controversial year-old law that allowed authorities to hold African migrants in detention for up to three years without charge.

The law, which came into effect in June 2012, was intended to deter waves of illegal immigration from sub-Saharan Africa, but was slammed by human rights groups as an illegal way of handling people seeking asylum.

Reacting to the decision, Yariv Levine, a senior lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, took to his Facebook page to accuse the court of having made a “mad decision to turn Israel from a Jewish state into one of all its immigrants”.

That point of view had been expressed by Netanyahu himself, who defended the law when it was first signed, arguing that it would help protect the Jewish character of Israel.

Netanyahu to pursue ‘determined policy’

But Chief Justice Asher Grunis, along with eight other justices on the panel, ruled that the law conflicted with Israel’s legal guarantees of basic “human dignity and freedom”, calling it “illegitimate constitutionally”. Many of the immigrants come from countries like Eritrea and Sudan, considered too dangerous for repatriation, and are therefore entitled to Israeli residency permits, the court said.

The court has given the government three months to decide what to do with the hundreds of migrants currently living in detention centres.

Several left-wing lawmakers cheered the decision. Michal Rozin of the Meretz party praised the court for “[stopping] anti-democratic legislation”.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said he would observe the court’s decision while “implementing our determined policy that has already curtailed the infiltration”.

Most of the roughly 50,000 African migrants that have come to Israel since 2006 cross the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and then sneak through the porous Egyptian border.

A beefed-up border fence, however, has reduced such illegal immigration, with no crossings recorded since August.
 

Date created : 2013-09-17

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