UN Refugee Agency lambastes Israeli policy on African migrants

At Sunday's rally in Tel Aviv.

At Sunday’s rally in Tel Aviv. Photo by Ofer Vaknin


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has criticized Israel’s policy on African migrants, and in particular the new amendments to the country’s anti-infiltration law.

Following Sunday’s mass protest of tens of thousands of migrants and their supporters in Tel Aviv, the representative for UNHCR in Israel published a rare press release, calling on Israel to consider alternatives to its current “warehousing” of migrants.

The release was titled “Israel’s new laws and policies do not live up to the Spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

UNHCR has previously criticized the amendments to the anti-infiltration law, and even brought its position before the High Court of Justice, but, until now, has refrained from making public statements. In the press release published Sunday, the agency said that in principle it supports establishing a residence facility for asylum seekers, but not in its current incarnation at Holot.

“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,” UNHCR representative Walpurga Englbrecht said. “This means in effect indefinite detention.”

The statement also said that international laws calls to detain asylum seekers only as a last resort and only for the shortest possible duration.

“The current policy and practices create fear and chaos amongst asylum seekers, not taking into account their specific situation,” the agency said in the statement.[Full story]