Six human rights groups filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday against Interior Minister Eli Yishai's plan to detain 15,000 Sudanese asylum seekers beginning October 15.
The petition included the opinion of the UN Refugee Agency which said Yishai's claim that the Sudanese are not refugees is baseless.
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The agency said the asylum seekers' lives would be in danger if they are forced to return to their home country. The agency said the arrest of the migrants should be a "last resort."
The rights groups called Yishai's plan to detain the African migrants in order to "make their lives miserable" unless they leave the country willingly "hysterical and barbaric" and said it may result in a humanitarian crisis.
Yishai with African migrants at airport (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
"The detainment plan the minister has decided on is arbitrary, because currently it is not possible - legally or practically – to send the Sudanese nationals back to their country because it is an enemy state that Israel does not maintain diplomatic ties with," the petition read.
Attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said "it is regretful that the prime minister and attorney general are not restraining the interior minister and are allowing him to do as he pleases."
Responding to the petition, Minister Yishai said "the infiltration problem is one of our most severe problems and it threatens our future and identity as a Jewish and Zionist state. It is my duty as interior minister to do all I can to return the infiltrators, even at the price of this or that criticism. I will continue to act until the last infiltrator is returned to his country, be it north Sudan, Eritrea or any other country.
"Israeli history will judge these so-called 'human rights groups' for their activity against the state," he said.