28 November 2010: The Government adopts Resolution N. 2507 authorizing the establishment and operation of a residence center for persons entering the country unlawfully through the Egyptian border (“infiltrators”). The center would be operated by the Israel Prison Service.

December 2011: Pursuant to Resolution N. 2507, the Government adopts an “infiltrator” deterrence policy which includes:

  1. building a fence along the border with Egypt;
  2. encourage departure either to countries of origin or to third countries;
  3. prolonged detention

9 January 2012: Amendment 3 to the Anti-Infiltration Law is passed by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. It enters into force on 3 June 2012 as an interim Law for three years.

Amendment 3: Article 1 of the amended Anti-Infiltration Law defines an infiltrator as a person who is not a resident according to the 1965 Population Registrar Law and who entered Israel not by way of a border crossing determined by the Minister of Interior according to the Law of Entry into Israel.

Further, Article 30A of the Amendment stipulated that such a person may be held in detention, based on an order of deportation issued against him/her, for up to three years (the period the Amendment is in force) or until he/she is deported, except in specific circumstances (limited to humanitarian grounds, medical or age circumstances; unaccompanied minors; when the release may promote deportation, at the discretion of the border control officer).

4 October 2012: Petition to the High Court challenging the legality of Amendment 3 to the Anti-Infiltration Law.

16 September 2013: High Court decision on Amendment 3.

The High Court found unanimously that the detention of “infiltrators” for three years was unconstitutional; a majority of 8 out of 9 judges ruled that Amendment 3 should be nullified. The Court gave the Ministry of Interior 90 days to examine the files of the residents in the Saharonim detention centre.

10 December 2013: The Knesset passes Amendment 4 to the Anti-Infiltration Law.

Amendment 4: Article 30A of the Law under Amendment 4 provides for a one-year automatic detention for newly arriving “infiltrators”, as well as a normative framework for obligatory transfer of infiltrators to a residence centre for three years (the duration of Amendment 4).

New Chapter D of the Law provides for the establishment of the “Holot” holding facility in the Negev region. It is a de facto detention centre, though it is designated as an “open” residence facility (daily reporting three times a day, facility under the Israeli Prison Service’s authority). The new Chapter D allowed for prolonged detention periods (up to a period of one year, to be served consecutively) for persons who fail to renew their conditional release visa on time or for persons who violate the disciplinary conditions of the residence facility. Eritreans and Sudanese detained in Saharonim under Amendment 3 were subsequently transferred to Holot; in addition, long-staying Eritreans and Sudanese began to be summoned to Holot.

22 September 2014: Court Decision on Amendment 4.

The High Court rules Amendment 4 unconstitutional, effective immediately with respect to mandatory detention in Saharonim. A 90-day suspension of the annulment of the chapter regarding Holot in order to allow the formulation of an alternative arrangement. However, annulment of noon reporting was effective immediately.

8 December 2014: The Law for the Prevention of Infiltration and to Ensure Departure of Infiltrators is passed by the Knesset, entering into force on 17 December 2014. The legislation contains amendments to two different laws: Amendment 5 of the Anti-Infiltration Law and an amendment to the Foreign Workers Law.

Amendment 5: Article 30A under Amendment 5 reduced automatic detention for newly arriving “infiltrators” to three months, followed by automatic transfer to Holot residence centre. Chapter D was also amended to reduce the mandatory residence at Holot to 20 months. The law and PIBA regulations contain limited exemptions from mandatory residency at Holot for women, children, men over age 60, parents of dependent minors and victims of trafficking and slavery. The law continues to allow for prolonged detention periods (up to a period of one year, to be served consecutively, for persons who fail to renew their conditional release visa on time or for persons who violate the disciplinary conditions of the residence facility, including reporting requirement (reduced to once a day, between 20:00-22:00, and mandatory overnight stay).

Amendment to the Foreign Workers Law: The amendment obligates employers of those defined as “infiltrators” to deposit two types of payments into a special fund: one monthly sum equivalent to 16% of the employee’s monthly salary payable by the employer as a contribution towards pension and severance pay, plus a monthly deduction of 20% from the employee’s salary. The employees, almost all Eritreans and Sudanese, can receive the deductions accumulated in the fund only upon departure from Israel. Overstay is fined by gradual expropriation of the funds by the State up to a 33% reduction. Implementation of the amendment to the Foreign Workers Law was delayed until 2017.

15 December 2014: Petition against Amendment 4 filed before the High Court.

18 December 2014: Petition against Amendment 5 filed before the High Court.

31 March 2015: The government announces a policy of forced relocation of Eritreans and Sudanese to unnamed third countries that were said to meet the six benchmarks required by the Israeli Attorney-General:

(1) no conflict or general disturbance in the third country; (2) no UNHCR advisory against relocation to the third country; (3) those relocated will face no risk to their life and liberty on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social or political group; (4) the third country allows access to the asylum procedure or temporary protection, or at least a guarantee against refoulement; (5) protection against torture, cruel or degrading treatment; and (6) an undertaking made by the third state to provide the individual with dignified living conditions (at least possibilities to stay and work). According to the policy, those who agree to leave Israel are to receive $3,500 USD upon departure; those who refuse will be subject to detention for an unspecified duration under the “non-cooperation” clause in the 1952 Law of Entry into Israel.

30 April 2015: Petition #1 against the forced relocation policy before the District Court of Beer Sheva.

5 May 2015: The government delays implementation of the forced relocation policy and sends an inter-ministerial fact-finding mission to Rwanda to examine the reception and protection conditions available to persons who will be relocated there. The District Court rejects the petition on 14 May 2015.

1 July 2015: Petition #2 before the District Court of Beer Sheva again challenging the forced relocation policy and requesting an injunction against detention. The District Court denies the injunction request on 17 July 2015.

11 August 2015: High Court Decision on Amendment 5 to the Anti-Infiltration Law.

The Court found, in an unanimous decision, Article 30A authorizing detention for a period of up to three months as constitutional. However, the Court ruled that the twenty-month mandatory residency at Holot was disproportionate and therefore invalid. The Knesset to enact within six months new provisions stipulating shorter residency.

12 August 2015: The Supreme Court grants an injunction that was refused by the Beer Sheva District Court against detention of petitioners who appealed their relocation order.

23 August 2015: Ban from residing and working in Tel Aviv and Eilat.

Eritreans and Sudanese released from Holot not allowed to reside and work in Tel Aviv and Eilat. Violation of this condition is punishable by detention under Amendment 5 (up to 30 days for the first violation, up to 45 days for the second violation, and up to 60 days for each subsequent violation).

27 August 2015: Issuance of new Holot criteria – As of 30 August 2015, all Eritrean and Sudanese males who are not exempt by the terms of Amendment 5 are subject to be summoned to Holot, regardless of their date of entry into Israel.

8 November 2015: The District Court of Beer Sheva again rejects petition against the forced relocation policy, ruling that the petitioners failed to demonstrate that the lives and liberty of those relocated would be at risk. Petitioners filed appeal to the Supreme Court.

11 February 2016: The Knesset passes Amendment 6 to the Anti-Infiltration Law reducing the period of mandatory residency in Holot from 20 months to 12 months.

7 August 2016: The Ministry of Interior issues an amended regulation relating to obligatory residency at Holot, according to which a residency period of less than 12 months may be ordered, at the discretion of PIBA official, taking into account the following:

  • The person’s age
  • Medical condition
  • Advanced immigration proceedings
  • An outstanding asylum application submitted prior to 16.2.2015
  • Special humanitarian cases

30 October 2016: PIBA announces that Darfuris are no longer summoned to Holot.

3 January 2017: Amendment to the Foreign Workers Law adopted. Following the amendment, a “Deposit Fund” was established under the authority of PIBA with deductions to commence on 1 May 2017.

13 March 2017: Petition filed to the High Court requesting the annulment of the 2014 Amendment to the Foreign Workers Law.

13 June 2017: The High Court rules on living conditions at Holot. The High Court ruled that the number of residents per room to be reduced from 10 to 6 within 9 months, and that the “cleaning materials” category (which includes soap and shampoo) be removed from the list of prohibited items to bring into Holot.

28 August 2017: The High Court upholds the government policy on forced relocation to third countries and allows, in principle, the detention of those refusing to relocate. However, the Court also rules that since the agreement with third countries was only for voluntary relocation, the state cannot detain individuals refusing to relocate for a period exceeding 60 days.

24 October 2017: The government announces changes to the relocation agreement. To address concerns raised by the High Court, the government announces the amendment of the relocation agreement signed with one of the third countries (believed to be Rwanda) to provide for the possibility of involuntary relocation.

17 November 2017: UNHCR issues a press release expressing concern over the government announcement to forcibly relocate asylum-seekers to third countries.

11 December 2017: The Knesset passes an amendment to the Anti-Infiltration Law extending the operation of the Holot facility by three months, in view of imminent activation of the forced relocation policy, with Holot to close by mid-March 2018.

1 January 2018: The government publishes a new forced relocation procedure.

According to the procedure, single Eritrean and Sudanese men who did not apply for asylum, whose asylum request was refused, or who filed an asylum request after 1 January 2018, must leave Israel within 60 days (those residing in the Holot Centre are given only 30 days). Women, minors, parents of a dependent minor in Israel, and recognized victims of slavery and trafficking are exempt, but not other vulnerable groups including victims of torture, those with medical illnesses and conditions, elderly individuals, etc. The deportations were to start on 1 April 2018.

Public protest against forced relocation of asylum-seekers: Government plans to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda and Uganda was met with massive public protests around the country. At their peak, the protests culminated in a rally of 25,000 people in Rabin Square on 24 March 2018.

23 January 2018: Petitions against deportation filed before the High Court.

15 March 2018: High Court freezes deportation of Eritreans and Sudanese until further notice.

16 March 2018: Holot is closed following the expiry of Chapter D of the Law.

2 April 2018: The government and UNHCR sign a Framework of Common Understanding on a comprehensive solution for Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers in Israel.

Under the agreement, UNHCR is to assist in the departure of a part of this population to Western countries under their admission policies (resettlement, family reunification, private sponsorship, humanitarian admission schemes, etc.). Simultaneously, Israel is to grant appropriate legal status and rights to those remaining in the country.

3 April 2018: The UNHCR-Government Agreement is canceled.

10 April 2018: High Court extends its temporary injunction against deportation and rules that persons detained for refusing to relocate to Rwanda or Uganda be released, absent of the Attorney-General’s approval of the relocation agreement and its terms.

16 – 24 April 2018: The government informs the High Court that no agreement was signed with Uganda on forcible relocation, and thus, nearly all detainees were released. The government further informs the Court that all procedures relating to forced relocation have been terminated and that only voluntary departures will be pursued.

30 April 2018: Following government updates to the High Court announcing what was in effect a suspension of the forced relocation programme, petitioners agreed to a removal of their case from the Court’s docket.

23 April 2020: The High Court of Justice ruled the Deposit scheme – imposed on Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers by virtue of the 2014 amendment to the Foreign Workers Law – as unconstitutional as it infringes upon their property rights. The government is ordered to ensure the return of their deposited money within 30 days.

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**Publications by non-UNHCR authors are not necessarily endorsed by or representative of UNHCR

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