Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has defended the government’s police on illegal entry in response to criticism from the political left.
Weinstein rejected claims that Israel is mistreating refugees, and said the government is doing what it can to give a “balanced response” to illegal entry. “I don’t think that Israel is violating its obligations according to either Israeli or international law,” he declared.
According to Yisrael Hayom, Weinstein’s statement came in response to a petition he received supporting illegal entrants’ claims to refugee status, and accusing the government of mistreating them. The petition was signed by several Israeli academics.
Weinstein wrote, “The central goal of the government’s policy in regards to the phenomenon of illegal entry is to check the flow of illegal entrants coming to Israel in recent years for economic reasons.
“While the state has a right to take action to stop the phenomenon of illegal entry, it also has an obligation to give refuge to refugees,” he agreed. “I share your view that the state of Israel cannot ignore appeals from refuge-seekers whose requests for refugee status have a basis.”
Israel has given refugee status to some of the many thousands of people who illegally crossed the Israel-Egypt border in recent years. However, government officials have argued that the clear majority of illegal entrants are migrants seeking work, not refugees fleeing danger, and that few have even filed for refugee status.
Minister of the Interior Gidon Saar recently defended his ministry's record, stating that requests for refugee status have been individually examined.
Illegal entrants have recently staged protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem calling on the government to grant them refugee status, and condemning a new policy under which hundreds of illegal entrants have been ordered to spend nights in an open detention facility in southern Israel. Critics have noted that the demonstrations appear to have been organized from the outside, and say that various interest groups are misrepresenting the detention facility, which provides illegal entrants with several services.