UN refugee agency urges Israel to reconsider new procedures for asylum seekers

Israeli soldiers inspect a vehicle entering the village of Azzun Atma through the West Bank Barrier. Photo: IRIN/Tom Spender

10 January 2014 – The United Nations refugee agency today warned that Israel could be breaking international law by limiting the rights of asylum-seekers with a new amendment to the country’s anti-infiltration law.

Of particular concern to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a provision in the new Amendment requiring asylum-seekers to reside in a so-called open residence facility.

“Since the facility was housing people who cannot be returned to their countries of origin for reasons of non-refoulement, the organization is concerned that this facility could, in effect, result in indefinite detention, with no release grounds,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in Geneva.

The facility, located in the Negev desert, also restricts movement by mandating people reside there, and report in three times per day, among other discipline measures.

Mr. Edwards said that UNHCR understands the challenges faced by Israel in managing the reception of migrants and asylum-seekers. However, it was important that the treatment of asylum-seekers “be in line with international refugee and human rights law,” he concluded.

Under the Amendment, new asylum-seekers arriving in an irregular manner will automatically be detained for at least a year, as will people whose conditional release visas have expired.

Difficulties in renewing visas are meanwhile growing, the spokesperson noted, with reports of long queues and limited access to visa services.


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