Statement on Holot Release
Dear friends and supporters,
On August 11, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled for the third time on the Anti-Infiltration Law and the constitutionality of the Holot detention center. The justices decided by an overwhelming majority (8-1) that the 20-month period of detention was excessive and could constitute a substantial deprivation of freedom. They ordered the release of nearly 1200 asylum seekers who had been detained in Holot for more than 12 months, a period that the justices deemed disproportionate and harmful to basic rights. The High Court gave the Knesset six months to amend the law and find a more humane solution.
Though the High Court did not strike down the entire amendment as they had in the past, they still made it clear that the current conditions are unconstitutional. The Israeli government aims to make the lives of asylum seekers miserable in order to coerce them to leave Israel. So far thousands of asylum seekers have chosen to leave Israel, either to return to their native countries or attempt life in a third country. However, evidence has shown that they face severe fear, imprisonment, torture, and danger to their lives once they “voluntarily” return.
Shimon Peres, the former president of Israel, famously said, “Israel is a signatory to an international convention… the convention says that deporting a person to a country where he faces death is not allowed. We remember what it means to be refugees and strangers, and we will act as accepted and correct from a moral and global perspective.”
Though we celebrate the release of the 1178 asylum seekers, the conditions of their “freedom” continue to cut them off from their family, friends, and community. Government decree forbids them from living or working in Tel Aviv or Eilat. The police have pressured and detained them even when they visit friends here during the day. Furthermore, the government has provided the released asylum seekers with no shelter and no solutions. Yes, there are problems in South Tel Aviv, but these will not be solved by further discriminating against a vulnerable population. Denying them access to their family and friends helps no one. Also, now more people are at risk of being sent to Holot. From August 30, the government has broadened the criteria of summons to Holot. Exceptions still apply for men with families, victims of human trafficking, and men over 60 years old. However, the date of arrival is no longer relevant, placing thousands more asylum seekers at risk of detainment.
We urge the Israeli government to meet its international obligation. Detention is not a solution, and it should be the last resort. Furthermore, we ask the government to review the asylum claims in a fair and transparent manner and grant proper status to asylum seekers so that we may live in an honorable and dignified way.
ARDC is a grassroots organization on the frontlines of this issue. Our vision is to enable and ensure that all refugees and asylum seekers are free from persecution, live in dignity and have the opportunity to realize their aspirations. We are determined to meet the needs of the asylum seeker community by working closely with our partner organizations, community members, and supporters. We praise and thank the community members and Israeli activists for their efforts in finding housing for the released asylum seekers. The community has shown its determination and commitment to each other. No matter what government does to make our lives harder, we will always be our brothers’ keepers.