The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has slammed Israel’s policy on African migrants, particularly the new amendment to Tel Avis’s “anti-infiltration law.”
Israel’s so-called anti-infiltration law allows it to imprison asylum seekers for a long time without charge or deport them to their countries where their lives are often in danger.
In a Sunday press release, the UNHCR said Israel’s new legislation is a violation of the spirit of the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention, which protects the African refugees from deportation to countries where their lives are imperiled.
The statement said that “the current policy and practices create fear and chaos amongst asylum seekers, not taking into account their specific situation.”
The agency called on Tel Aviv to consider alternatives to its current “warehousing” of migrants, in likely reference to the Israeli practice of holding African migrants in special facilities.
UNHCR representative in Israel Walpurga Englbrecht also said Israel’s new ‘open’ Holot facility is in fact a detention center for all manners and purposes.
In mid-December, Tel Aviv began operating the facility in Negev to hold African refugees.
“I am particularly disquieted about the purpose of the so-called ‘open’ residence facility in Holot which, in its current form and despite its designation as ‘open,’ would appear to operate as a detention center from where there is no release,” Englbrecht said.
The UN agency had previously criticized the amendments to the Israeli “anti-infiltration law,” and even brought the case before the High Court of Justice, but had not made any public statements in this regard until now.
The statement comes as more than 30,000 African asylum seekers staged demonstrations on Sunday to protest against the implementation of the “anti-infiltration” law.
The demonstrators called for the release of all imprisoned refugees and for the recognition of their rights.