Commend the Israeli Supreme Court for Standing Up for the Rights of Undocumented Immigrants


Target: The Israeli Supreme Court

Goal: Commend the Israeli Supreme Court for overturning a law that subjected undocumented immigrants to long-term detention

The Israeli Supreme Court has defended the rights of undocumented immigrants by declaring a law that authorized the state to hold them in detention for up to three years unconstitutionally. The detention was a part of an administrative process that would determine whether the immigrants would be accorded refugee status or deported from Israel. Although many Israelis, particularly the residents of Tel Aviv, are reluctant to see African migrants granted the right to reside in their neighborhoods due to concerns about crime and lack of integration, the court has not allowed these misgivings to guide it in its deliberations. Instead, the court simply opted to rule on the issue from the perspective of migrants’ rights, arguing that the legislation was unconstitutional and violated Israel’s Basic Laws on dignity and freedom. Indeed, detaining anyone for years at a time without a criminal conviction amounts to arbitrary imprisonment; that is why the judges decreed that the state would be obligated to release the migrants after 90 days.

About 2,000 refugees from Sudan and Eritrea have been confined in the Saharonim facility in the city of Negev because international conventions forbid their deportation. Unwilling to grant them asylum and unable to deport them, Israel has sought to make them leave the country voluntarily by trying to work out deals with other countries for their resettlement, one of them being Uganda, or by getting them to return to their countries of origin.

The law permitting long-term detention received the support of many Israelis because African refugees were seen as a nuisance in the city of Tel Aviv. As the state has not provided the migrants with work, educational opportunities, or social services that would permit them to integrate into the Israeli way of life, their isolated ethnic enclave has been perceived as an unwelcome foreign element that clashes with Jewish culture. Among the many reasons for their dissatisfaction with the migrants, Israelis cited their disruption of sacred Jewish holidays and instances of criminal behavior such as rape, robbery and assault.

But the issues of crime and lack of integration that affect many immigrant communities across the world are no excuse to imprison and isolate the foreign migrants en masse. Sign this petition to praise the Israeli Supreme Court for recognizing that whatever inconveniences refugees may cause, they still have basic human rights that preclude long-term detention.


Dear Members of the Israeli Supreme Court,

It is to your great credit that you have not been swayed by the popular pressure to allow foreign migrants to remain in long-term detention and have instead decided to vote in favor of their basic human rights. It is true that these unassimilated immigrants may be disruptive to a country that greatly values its traditional culture. Tel Aviv residents have complained about migrants committing crimes and interfering with religious rituals . But the trouble integrating and dealing with foreign migrants doesn’t mean that they deserve to spend years of their lives locked up in a detention facility.

Being deprived of freedom for such a long period of time should only happen to criminals; condemning innocent people to the same fate on the account of their migrant status is simply a travesty. The court was wise to recognize that long-term detention for refugees infringes on the principles of basic dignity that should be accorded to all persons regardless of their residential status. We thank you for demonstrating humanity and compassion towards an unwelcome population by overturning an unjust law that singled them out for unfair treatment.

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: poederbach via Flickr

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60 Signatures

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