Israeli interior ministry urges PM to jail asylum-seekers

Israeli interior ministry urges PM to jail asylum-seekers

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai sent a letter on Sunday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman, urging them to order the imprisonment of Sudanese migrants living in Israel, Xinhua reported.

Yishai's request comes after last week's announcement by the state's prosecution rejecting Yishai's earlier announcement to imprison migrants.

The Israeli State Attorney's Office (SAO) said Thursday that Yishai's announcement in August, which claimed that Israel will imprison 15,000 asylum-seekers starting from Oct. 15, was not backed by any government ruling and therefore incorrect.

The SAO further said the issue is discussed by official government ranks, and should there be such a decision it would be published in an orderly fashion, 30 days prior to its execution.

The SAO's view was brought as an answer to a petition by human rights group opposing the imprisonment. The petitioners called the imprisonment a "discriminatory, arbitrary and unjust plan" which " violates basic rights and is severe."

The Jerusalem District Court judge ordered an injunction of the imprisonment plans until the completion of the trial.

In his letter, Yishai urged Netanyahu and Ne'eman to support his imprisonment demand. "The state prosecution's response contradicts the decisions we've reached in the government," he said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

"My hands are tied as a result of ruling by various jurists who are not attuned to the distress of the citizens of Israel," Yishai wrote.

"Reality and the scope of the problem necessitate the ability to use detention facilities, which were not constructed and budgeted in vain," Yishai added.

Last week, the National Planning and Construction Panel approved building plans for a detention facility for African migrants in the Negev Desert called Sadot, which awaits the government's approval.

The original plan for the facility authorized in March is to hold 3,000 migrants, with a potential for an expansion for up to 11,000 detainees in the future.

Also on Sunday, human rights groups accused the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) of denying food and water to migrants and using violence towards them, according to a blistering report.

Three NGOs -- Human Rights Watch, The Hotline for Migrant Workers and Physicians for Human Rights -- said Israel is supplying excuses not to comply with the international law and protect the refugees.

"Israeli authorities contend that asylum-seekers to whom it denies entry can request asylum from Egyptian authorities, that Israel has the right to seal its borders, and that its obligations towards asylum-seekers do not extend to those who are prevented from entering its territory," the report said.

"None of these arguments are correct under the Refugee Convention or the international human rights law," the three groups said.

"There is simply no loophole justifying Israel's denial of protection to asylum-seekers by rejecting them at the border without fully considering their individual cases," said Gerry Simpson, a senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch.

"To accept such a claim would be to accept the evisceration of refugee protection," Simpson added.

In May, Yishai announced the "Going Home" repatriation operation to expel many of the 60,000 asylum-seekers back to South Sudan and Eritrea. Yishai said the African asylum-seekers were a "demographic threat" and an economic burden on social services.

Since then, nearly 2,000 South Sudanese asylum-seekers have been returned. Local news outlets reported that several of them have died, mostly children, due to malaria-related diseases.

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