A new report by an Israeli human rights group paints a picture of humiliating treatment towards immigrants and asylum seekers, as well as unlawful arrests and actual physical violence.
The report by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants for 2019 gathered dozens of testimonies, which also revealed shocking incidents at several migrant detention facilities, where those suspected of visa violations, illegal entry or unauthorized arrival are detained while the authorities work to find out if they are residing in Israel legally.
The report states that dozens of detainees were imprisoned for months in several detention facilities all across the country, including 24 people who were even detained for about a year and a half. Furthermore, personnel staffing such facilities used extreme methods to control the detainees, such as beatings with a belt and the forced use of sleeping pills.
One such facility is the Yahalom Detention Center, located at Ben-Gurion Airport, which in 2019 held approximately 11,465 detainees including 370 children and 4,969 women in subhuman conditions that failed to meet legal standards.
"The three of us were locked in a small room, without a TV and without our phones that were confiscated," says a care worker from the Philippines who had been working in Israel for 15 years and who had been imprisoned with her two small children for 15 days.
“In the morning they let us go out for 15 minutes, and sometimes they let us out in the evening for another half hour,” she says.
"The children begged to be allowed to call their father, but were refused," she says. "At some point we asked for medicine, but we were denied without any explanation... All we wanted to do while we were in there was die.”
The report reveals details regarding another facility operated by the Immigration Authority in the central Israel town of Beit Dagan.
"They grabbed me by force, tied me up and pushed me. I hit the wall and my head was bleeding. I cried and I screamed,” says an asylum seeker from Ethiopia.
”They told me that we were ‘multiplying like cockroaches’. It was very hard in there, I thought about killing myself.”
An asylum seeker from Nigeria tells of a similar experience.
"I explained that if I was returned to my country I could be killed, but no one wanted to hear it," he says.
"They took us by bus to Ben-Gurion Airport. When they took us out to board the plane I shouted in despair and one of the men from immigration kicked me in the testicles in response.”
The report also found that immigration inspectors, who until recently used to knock on the door of those suspected of residing in Israel illegally, have changed their methods and are now breaking into places of residence by force.
Additionally, the report claims that in 2019 there was a sharp increase in the number of deported families, and the total number of deportees amounted to 6,694.
“The data and evidence reveal conduct that violates the High Court's directive and even the Immigration Authority's own procedures,” says Sigal Rosen from the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.
“The report reveals a sharp increase in the number of immigrant families imprisoned for the purpose of deportation from the country and for the first time it also aimed to detain students,” says Rosen.
"We regret that the Population and Immigration Authority barred us from its detention facility at Ben-Gurion Airport, along with the media and Knesset members," she says.
The Population and Immigration Authority said in response: “As a rule, the Yahalom facility operates in an orderly way that determines the arrangements of the facility, including the conditions under which the residents are held, visits, social services and more. Those staying at the facility have access to showers, rooms, meals, and medical services as well as a dedicated landline telephone with international calls for their convenience 24 hours a day.
“As for the issue of the families of illegal residents, we stress that the claim of an increase in the number of families detained is unfounded and based on nothing but a desire to make headlines.”