Israeli city mayor sets policies to keep asylum seekers out

Israel began freeing more than 1,100 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers from the Holot detention facility

Published: Updated:

An Israeli city mayor has announced a series of measures aimed at keeping the hundreds of asylum seekers being released Tuesday from a nearby detention facility from entering his town, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Israel began freeing more than 1,100 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers from the Holot detention facility following a court ruling earlier this month which ordered the release of those held for more than a year.

In a Facebook post, in which he called the asylum seekers “infiltrators,” Mayor Nissan Ben Hamo said he set up municipal policing and inspection points at the city’s entrances to stop the migrants from entering.

“As of this morning I instructed municipal inspection and policing teams to reinforce their presence at entry points to the city, including the central bus station and throughout the city,” he wrote in Hebrew, according to a translation in Haaretz’s report.

“I ask everyone to maintain alertness and report unusual incidents, but to leave us to handle the situation. We have no concrete information at present about their possible arrival in Arad but we’re ready for any scenario. If we have to strengthen our struggle on this issue I won’t hesitate to call on all residents to join in the fight for the city’s wellbeing,” he added.

Ben Hamo also pointed to a prohibition that bans asylum seekers from living or working in Tel Aviv and Eilat, which may prompt some of those released to come to Arad.

“The decision of the Interior Minister to prevent their entry into Tel Aviv and Eilat raises the probability that these people will move to cities in the southern part of the country,” he said in a separate Facebook post earlier this week.

“I met the Interior Minister yesterday and expressed my displeasure at his decision to prefer one city over another - I told him that I’m determined not to allow infiltrators to reach Arad,” he said.

Israel grants automatic citizenship to Jews, while denying refugee or residency status to many others. Some social activists complain this policy is discriminatory while others cite a shortage of legislation governing immigration, Reuters news agency reported.

Human Rights Watch claimed in a report in 2014 that by jailing migrants Israel was coercing people entitled to refugee protection under international law to risk their lives through repatriation.