WASHINGTON (JTA) — HIAS, a U.S. Jewish organization dealing with refugees, criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for seeking the continued detention of asylum seekers.
Netanyahu on Tuesday asked ministers to draft new legislation that would allow the government to work around a Supreme Court ruling in September that struck down much of an earlier law legislating indefinite detention for Africans seeking asylum in Israel. He also said he would keep open the Holot migrant detention facility in the Negev.
In the HIAS statement issued Wednesday, HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield expressed disappointment that Netanyahu was circumventing the Israeli Supreme Court soon after his address to the United Nations General Assembly describing Israel as the only country in the Middle East that protects human rights.
“While Netanyahu’s fence has succeeded in reducing the inflow of migrants into Israel to a trickle, he is squandering yet another opportunity, handed to him by the Supreme Court, to celebrate freedom and treat asylum seekers with the hospitality and dignity worthy of a Jewish and democratic state,” Hetfield said.
Netanyahu has called the refugees from Sudan and Eritrea illegal work immigrants and not asylum seekers.
According to HIAS, the refugee recognition rates around the world for Eritreans and Sudanese is between 70 and 80 percent while in Israel, it is less than one percent.