03/16/2018, 10.00
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Supreme Court freezes refugee expulsions

The government has until March 26 to explain the plan. The lack of clarity of nations where migrants are deported to is a source of insecurity. Until the Court's final decision, Israel cannot expel or arrest other asylum seekers.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Israeli Supreme Court has put a temporary halt to the deportation of tens of thousands of African asylum seekers living in Israel until further notice. The decision, which gives the authorities until March 26 to provide more information on the deportation program, comes as a result of an appeal presented by human rights activists.

On January 1, Israel warned tens of thousands of asylum seekers that they will have to "voluntarily" leave the country by April or end up in jail. The program for now only concerns unmarried men. Last month, the first refugees who refused to leave were arrested. In Israel, there are about 40 thousand asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, the majority of whom arrived through Sinai between 2005 and 2012, where they suffered torture and violence.

At the first hearing on March 12, Judge Hanan Melcer said that the authorities must clarify the agreements in force in "third countries" to which the migrants are deported, especially considering that they - Uganda and Rwanda - deny having made any commitment. For the magistrate, clarity is needed to protect asylum seekers: "If agreements are broken, they can go to court and show the agreement. But when the authorities say there is no agreement, what will they show? " The court also ruled that the government will not be able to expel or detain other asylum seekers in the Saharonim prison until a final decision is taken. However, those who want to leave the country "voluntarily" will be able to do so and there is no provision for the release of refugees currently in prison.

Two days ago, the authorities closed Holot, the main detention center for thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese for over four years. Its closure is part of the expulsion campaign.

The future of migrants who agree to leave the country is uncertain: several asylum seekers interviewed by the Israeli daily Haaretz in Rwanda and Uganda have said that once they have arrived on the spot, they have been robbed of the documents issued by Israel, have not been recognized as refugees and have had extreme difficulty finding a job and a home. According to UNHCR - UN agency for refugees, which is highly critical of the measure - many set off on a second dangerous journey, this time to Europe.

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