Migrant children protesting in Jerusalem, 2010. Under new regulations minors originating from South Sudan will be held in adult prisons. (Photo:Olivier Fitoussi/BauBau)
Israel’s prison service will begin housing some 90 migrant children in an adult detention facility in the latest crackdown on asylum seekers. The move comes as Israel has deported over 1000 migrants to their home countries and after six minors escaped from a youth holding center where they were awaiting transfer out of the country.
Initially 50 minors will be moved to Givon Prison in Ramle, but an additional 40 beds will be available for more youth. Haaretz is reporting the children will be only temporarily accommodated in the prison:
The incarceration of teenage illegal migrants is meant to be temporary. But for them to get out of jail, room has to be found in a boarding school run by the Social Affairs Ministry or the Education Ministry. Alternatively, they can be released to an adult who would take responsibility for them without remuneration and after meeting certain conditions.
Imprisoning children in facilities designated for adults is a violation of both international law and Israeli law.
Earlier this year the Israeli ministry of interior stripped refugees from South Sudan of their temporary permits. Since the program to transfer out the migrants began, which includes door-to-door police visits to residential areas and places of work; approximately 1,000 migrants of a total 1,500 registered refugees have been deported.
Migrants now fear leaving their homes, and reports indicate that unemployment has skyrocketed. With the absence of wages, conditions are so dire that some are even giving up their children to state welfare agencies. “A situation in which a parent would even consider giving up his children so they can eat is horrible and extreme,” said Yigal Shtayim from Marak Levinsky, a group that provides migrants in a Tel Aviv with food, to Haaretz. “That’s what the government, helped by the public’s silence, has done to some of the refugees.”
The children of asylum seekers have not escaped the upswell of policies that strip refugees of their ability to work, or live, within Israel. They exist in a state of legal limbo, tied to their parents’ residency status, even if they were born in Israel. In 2011 the Israeli ministry of Interior ordered migrant women with valid visas to leave the country if they became pregnant. However, they could return to work with their original permits so long as they left their child behind in the home country. The law was overturned that same year by the high court, for coercing women to choose between their child and visa. Nonetheless, the regulation demonstrates the lengths to which the state will go in order to ensure a Jewish demographic majority.