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Refugee Minors to be Transferred from Givon Prison

The Committee for Children's Rights plans to ban the practice of asking the Israel Prison System to care for unaccompanied foreign refugee minors.
By Hana Levi Julian and Shimon Cohen
First Publish: 11/26/2009, 2:58 PM / Last Update: 11/26/2009, 3:07 PM

The Committee for the Rights of the Child held an emergency meeting Wednesday on the issue of imprisoning unaccompanied foreign minors who illegally infiltrated into Israel.

The meeting, headed by committee chairman MK Danny Danon, included the initiators of a proposed ban on imprisoning children in prison facilties, MK Nitzan Horowitz and Dov Khenin. The head of the Givon Prison, Joel Avidar, also attended, as did representatives of the Ministries of Education and Social Services.

For the past several months, 31 children have been incarcerated in Givon, after they ran away from what was apparently a displaced persons (DP) camp in Darfur. After they were caught by the Israeli authorities, they were placed in the Givon facility.

Chairman Danon determined at the hearing that "these children's place is not in prison. After the shock that I and my fellow committee members experienced during the tour of the Givon facility, we became determined to get them out of there. The committee decided that the treatment of unaccompanied foreign minors is twisted and inhumane."

Avidar told the hearing 29 minors are currently in the Givon Prison: "Three of them will soon go to a boarding school, five are in the process of entering foster care and 17 additional children are in the final process of being discharged from the facility."

The supervisor in charge of the Tel Aviv district of the Youth Advancement Division of the Education Ministry, Yifat Kalmaro, stressed that "the Ministry of Education is prepared to provide an education for the children anywhere they are transferred."

MK Horowitz called on the State to put an end to the practice of placing children in prisons in lieu of finding other ways to deal with the problem of what to do with them: "This is a humanitarian issue of the first priority, we must avoid this stop, called the IPS -- the Israel Prison Service station --  which is for criminals, and not for children. The State is doing an injustice for the treatment of children in asking the Prison Service to care for them."