Briefing Notes, 10 January 2014
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 10 January 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR has raised concerns this week with the Government of Israel over a recent Amendment to Israel's Anti-infiltration law that was passed by the Knesset in mid-December and further limits the rights of asylum-seekers.
Israel currently hosts approximately 53,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, the majority being from Eritrea (36,000) and Sudan (14,000). Until now, people in need of asylum have been provided with a form of temporary protection, renewable by applying periodically for the extension of so-called conditional release visas.
UNHCR is concerned that one of the provisions of the new Amendment requires asylum-seekers to reside in the so-called open residence facility located in the desert of Negev with serious restrictions on their freedom of movement with mandatory residence, a three-times-per-day reporting requirement and other discipline measures. Since Holot facility is 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.
Under the latest 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, with renewal possible in four cities and for a few hours each week. Long queues have been reported in some of these locations.
UNHCR understands the challenges faced by Israel in managing the reception of migrants and asylum-seekers. However, it is important that the treatment of asylum-seekers be in line with international refugee and human rights law. All asylum-seekers should have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, as well as efficient means to renew their existing visas.
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