In January 2012 the Israeli government passed the Anti-Infiltration Law (Amendment 3). The law determines that illegal migrants would be placed in closed detention facilities for a period of three months, in an effort to remove the incentive to infiltrate Israel. Even though Amendment 3 passed a third parliamentary reading, it was not enforced for many months. Following protests by residents of South Tel Aviv, the government began enforcing the law and the stream of infiltration to Israel reduced drastically – this happened months before building the border fence with Egypt was completed.
Following the great success of the Anti-Infiltration Law, and despite the law bringing the phenomenon of migrants being kidnapped and tortured in the Sinai to an almost complete halt, several NGOs appealed to the High Court of Justice in October 2012, in a demand to cancel the law.
The Israel Immigration Policy Center joined the appeal through the law office of David Furer and Offer Gross from the firm of Gross, Kleinhander, Hodek, Halevi, Greenberg and Associates, in the name of the IIPC and in the name of more than 100 residents of South Tel Aviv. After many years in which the legal arena was forsaken to radical NGOs, the IIPC presented the court with depositions and testimonies of residents who were personally harmed by the migrants. Among the testimonies presented to the High Court of Justice, the testimony of Corinne Galili, whose mother was murdered by a migrant in early 2010, was heard:
“My mother came to Israel from Tunisia when she was 9-years-old with the youth Aliya. Her father passed away when she was a baby and her mother died when she was 11, two years after arriving in Israel. Several years after marrying and living in Safed, mother divorced and moved to the Shapira neighbourhood in Tel Aviv with me, then a baby. I am a single mother taking care of a child. My mother used to help me. She was a second mother to my child, taking her to school, making her meals, taking her to the parks of Tel Aviv and taking her on walks all across town. We were the three of us for one another in the world, until that morning.
Mother was already retired when the migrants got to the city. Her building was overtaken by the migrants and she found herself alone, after all the Israelis have gone. On February 24 at 5 a.m. mother went out to buy a few groceries in the neighborhood store at the end of Hagra Street, as was her habit every morning. On her way back she came across a drunken Sudanese man who had beaten up several women during the night. She passed next to him and he lunged at her in an amok, hitting her neck. She immediately collapsed and lost consciousness. The entire incident was filmed with security cameras. The murderer was accused of manslaughter and given eight years in prison. I am frustrated. My daughter remembers grandmother and starts crying, they were the center of life for one another.
South Tel Aviv has become no-man’s land, buses loaded with migrants brought people here with no preparation, no treatment, and residents paid and continue to pay the price. For my family it is late, sadly we paid the dearest price of all.”
Another testimony from neighbourhood resident Valeria Maselsky:
“I came to the State of Israel in 1991 from Moscow, Russia with my extended family… in 1995 we bought a 1.5 room apartment in Hatikva neighbourhood and we still live there today. Over the years I joined a volunteer group of neighbourhood residents who deal with issues of the environment, we used to walk around the streets and find what can be improved. Sadly, because of the situation of the neighbourhood today, I can no longer allow myself to freely walk down its streets.
With the years, more and more migrants began arriving in Hatikva neighbourhood. Today we suffer from very strong smells that do not enable us to open the windows in our apartment. In addition, there is intolerable noise of screaming and loud music all day long. My friends in the neighbourhood who suffer from asthma tell me they must remain indoors and walk with an inhaler around the neighbourhood, lest they get an attack.
On Holocaust Day, a national memorial day, I asked the migrants to lower the volume of the music so that I can mark the day in peace. One of them came to me and said things I did not understand while making a hand gesture like cutting a throat. I felt threatened and returned to my house. I did not file a complaint with the police about this case.
The migrants behave toward us with crudeness and a patronizing attitude. One night they played music loud, I asked them to lower the volume since me and the other neighbours had trouble sleeping. Suddenly one of them came out and yelled at me in Hebrew: “Go back to Russia, this is our country.” To my neighbour he yelled: “Iraqi, go back in Iraq, this is not your country, this is our country.”
My husband and I are depressed, the neighbourhood is not as it was, we have lost any sense of security and are afraid to step out of our home. We would like to sell the house but nobody wants to buy, because when they see the migrants they run away. On weekends I sit with headphones to hear the television, because the noise in the street does not allow one to even hold a conversation. Community life have deteriorated, the synagogue in the school has closed down, people won’t come here anymore.
I’m now retired and my husband will be retired soon too. We do not seek to tour around the world or any luxury, the trouble is that we cannot even allow ourselves to tour the streets of our neighbourhood and we are afraid to leave our home.”
In addition to the depositions we attached, the IIPC stood by residents of south Tel Aviv in the court discussion, and we helped manage the protests in the media.
Following the depositions we brought, judge Arbel wrote: “I assume that the results of this verdict will not be easy for the Israeli public and will be especially difficult for the residents of South Tel Aviv, whose cry comes from the heart and raises empathy and understanding regarding the need to help them in their plight.”
“The cry of the residents of South Tel Aviv regarding what is happening in their neighborhoods was heard loudly and clearly in the proceedings. It is a cry coming from the heart and entering the heart.”
Despite this, and even though there are additional countries which allow to place illegal migrants in custody even without a time limit, the court decided that the clauses of the law enabling the placement of migrants in custody should be cancelled and the migrants should be released within 90 days.