Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Israel Grows Ever-Harsher in Treatment of Migrants

Israel’s growing migrant population has spurred the rightwing Likud government to pursue increasingly harsh detention and deportation policies, which could further complicate the country’s relationships with its neighbors and the international community.

Inter Press Service

A new report from the Global Detention Project (GDP) on Israel's immigration detention policies reveals the tough reality behind the feel-good story offered in the Academy Award-winning "Strangers No More", an inspirational documentary about students from migrant families who attend the Bialik-Rogozin school in Tel Aviv.

The film focuses on the exceptional work of Bailik-Rogozin's teachers in providing education for children who have escaped political instability – even genocide – in their own countries in Africa and elsewhere.

But "Strangers No More" fails to highlight the threat of detention and deportation faced by many young immigrants and asylum seekers.

The New York Times reported early this week that "there is an ominous subtext to the story that was not explored in the movie. Of the school's 828 pupils & 120 are facing deportation with their families" because they can't get legal status.

In its new report, the GDP, a research initiative based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, details the policies pursued by Israel's rightwing Likud government aimed at restricting the ability of asylum seekers to enter Israel and apply for asylum while at the same time boosting the country's detention and deportation efforts.

In early 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to build a wall along Israel's border with Egypt, saying the country "cannot let tens of thousands of illegal workers infiltrate into Israel through the southern border and inundate our country with illegal aliens."

Several months later, in November, Netanyahu announced that the government would build a massive new detention facility to confine up to 10,000 so-called infiltrators – unauthorized non-citizens – in order to reduce the incentive for migrants.

In February, the Israeli media reported that the government intended to expand the use of a small detention facility in Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport to hold children and families as they await deportation. One activist quoted in the GDP report called the plan "a moral stain that will not be erased".

Earlier, in 2009, the country set up a special police force called the Oz Unit ("oz" means strength in Hebrew) with the goal of apprehending the estimated 280,000 undocumented foreigners in Israel by 2013. The unit has been plagued with controversy, including mistreatment of migrants.

"Many countries have adopted harsh migrant detention policies in recent years," says Michael Flynn, the GDP's lead researcher. "But the Israeli government's policies stand out."

According to Flynn, the government's reaction appears to be spurred by several factors.

"On the one hand, Israeli officials appear to be acutely sensitive to ethnic differences because of the country's preoccupation with remaining a Jewish state," he said. "Also, the country has had antagonistic relations with many of its neighbors, making it particularly obsessive when it comes to border security."

Evidence of Israel's preoccupation with its growing migrant population is its hardening asylum policies. Since signing the U.N. Refugee Convention in 1954, Israel has granted refugee status to less than 200 people, even though UNCHR has registered several thousand asylum claims in the last two years alone.

The Israeli government has recently made it even harder to apply for asylum, according to the GDP. In January, new guidelines went into effect that shifted the responsibility for assessing asylum claims from UNHCR to Israel's Interior Ministry.

According to an Israeli lawyer interviewed by the GDP, this change in policy has been "simply a disaster". People who apply for asylum at the Interior Ministry tend to have their claims summarily rejected and then they are taken into custody at the ministry, which has had a "chilling effect" on asylum.

Often, asylum seekers are not even allowed to enter the country. Many of the people who are detained by the Israeli Defense Forces at the border are forcibly returned to Egypt, sometimes disappearing altogether, according to reports cited by the GDP.

UNHCR and other groups have severely criticized this "Hot Returns" policy. In 2007, the Israeli NGO Hotline for Migrant Workers filed suit in the High Court of Justice to fight the policy. The case is still pending.

Most asylum seekers and irregular migrants – who come from a number of African and East Asian countries – traverse Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to Israel, where they are initially apprehended by the IDF, which then turns them over to the custody of the Interior Ministry for detention in one of several detention centers.

Statistics cited by the GDP indicate that as of August 2010, 1,042 unauthorized residents had been held without criminal charge for more than the recommended 60 days. Some of these detainees had been in detention for years: a Congolese and a Kenyan had been in detention since 2004; an Ethiopian since 2005; and two Guineans since 2006.

A key facility is the Saharonim Detention Centre. Located near Israel's southern border, the facility confines entire families. According to information provided by Hotline for Migrant Workers to the GDP, fathers are detained separately from mothers and children, many of whom are confined for months in cloth tents and not provided proper schooling.

As of August 2010, there were 206 women and children in Saharonim, including families from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and several other African countries.

Children have also been detained at Givon Prison located near Ramla. Their situation was so dire that it spurred one Likud party member to say during a 2009 Knesset hearing that the treatment of detained minors was "twisted and inhumane".

While the issue of the return of Palestinian refugees remains a major stumbling block to Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israel's treatment of its non-Palestinian migrant population has been largely off the media radar.

However, the growing criticism of Israeli policies promises to further complicate the country's relations with its neighbors and the international community.

"Israel has long been criticized for its treatment of Palestinians," says Flynn. "But now, awareness is growing of the plight of other migrants in the country, and with the recent tumult in Egypt, it is likely that the government's fears of 'infiltrators' is only growing."

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share