Israel has reached an agreement with a foreign country to transfer North Sudanese illegal immigrants to its territory, and similar deals with two additional countries are in the works, it was revealed on Sunday in the High Court of Justice.
During a debate over a petition to cancel the Infiltration Prevention Law, which allows the State to jail illegal immigrant for three years without trial, The State's representative said that 2,100 North Sudanese immigrants have already been transferred.
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Attorney Yochi Gensin added that two additional countries are set to accept illegal immigrants – most likely North Sudan and Eritrea nationals – one as a final destination for Eritreans.
Immigrants in Saharonim facility (Photo: Haim Hornstein)
(Photo: Haim Hornstein)
The attorney noted that out of the 2,100 already transferred, 500 were taken out of hodling facilities.
The petition asking to annul the law was filed with the High Court by human rights groups against the Knesset, the interior minister and the defense minister.
According to the State, the law is necessary to stem the illegal immigration phenomenon, as the fence constructed on the Egyptian border alone is not enough to block their entry.
"We know of intentions by those who organize the refugees' arrival, to direct them to the area through places in which no fence has been constructed yet: The Jordanian border and the Red Sea, near Jordan and Eilat," Gensin said.
"It was clear from the start that the fence won't be enough, that's why the law was enacted," she added.
Conversely, the petitioners claimed the law formed a critical violation of the asylum seekers' rights. "It's doubtful whether a law was ever burned into the State of Israel's code of law which violated freedom through administrative arrest so critically," said the petition.
Some 2,000 illegal immigrants are held in detainment facilities, 1,800 of which were jailed through the disputed law.
Though legislation requires the State to complete an examination of the detainees' asylum petitions within three months or set them free, official data reveal the State answered only few petitions out of the 1,400 filed.
On May 2013, the Immigration Authority processed two asylum seekers who crossed the Egyptian border illegally, compared to 2,031 who entered on May 2012.
Previously released data showed 9,000 immigrants entered Israel on the first half of 2012, compared to 1,300 on the second, after the law was put into action.
But human rights groups relate the drop in numbers to the completion of the southern fence, and claim the law was not a factor.
Dozens of south Tel Aviv residents who oppose the petition attended the proceedings, as well as UN human rights representatives who wished to join the petition.
The law, which was passed by the Knesset on January 2012, included a clause which determined that those who aid an illegal immigrant may be imprisoned for up to 15 years.
But due to criticism, this clause was eventually limited to those who aid immigrants who have made a criminal offense.
The law drew legal criticism from the beginning. The Knesset Legal Council Attorney Eyal Yinon claimed that "the possibility of holding the infiltrators for three years without trial is highly irregular."
Sources with the Foreign Ministry said they were surprised to learn about the government's decision regarding deporting Eritrean migrants to a third country reportedly willing to accept the refugees.
Ministry sources dealing with the issue of migrants said they had no knowledge of states prepared to accept the asylum seekers, and sounded a skeptical note regarding the revelation. The ministry issued no official statement.
Attila Somfalvi, Omri Efraim contributed to this report
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