The wonderful work by Hotline for Refugees and Migrants in Israel

For those who don’t live in Israel, Hotline for Refugees and Migrants has for years been a critical source of support for refugees. Their work has helped countless Ethiopian, Eritrean and Sudanese who fled to Israel, hoping for asylum. Sadly, the Israeli state regards them as “infiltrators” and only a handful are granted full refugee status.

Hotline for Refugees and Migrants fights for their rights.

Dear friends,
If there were more hours in a day and more days in a week, I would be happy to serve in additional positions in the Hotline, and in other human rights organizations as well. In light of the unfortunate reality that time is finite, I have to make do with what I have by prioritizing. In recent years, I have devoted an increasing amount of my time to researching and writing reports. But why bother writing research reports when the average Israeli only reads headlines?

After all these years, I have learned that there is great value in documenting the data, testimonies, and information pertaining to the many injustices faced by migrants and asylum seekers in Israel. I have seen first-hand that the accumulation of information in a systematic manner has value. For example, it is possible that four instances of violence against migrants at the hands of immigration inspectors in a single year horrifies only my colleagues and me. But when they are part of a long pattern of violence that takes place each year, I can prove that they are not just four one-off events, but a pattern of conduct that must be eradicated and monitored so that it never happens again.

When we initiate a news article about a migrant that we were able to release after a decade of administrative detention, which he was subject to solely because the State failed to deport him, some readers do feel passionately, and agree that we’ve righted a long injustice. But when we publish reports year after year recounting the large number of migrants in administrative detention, held for years without trial and without the prospect of deportation, we make progress towards the day  when decision-makers will also come to understand that this is a serious violation of human rights.

Our research reports are displayed at the entrance to our office.
While our Crisis Intervention Center (CIC)’s activity is often a sprint – to immediately prevent illegal and life-threatening deportations, for example – work on our research reports is a long-distance run lasting all year round. First, we think together with the CIC and legal staff about the main injustices suffered by migrants and asylum seekers, which we most want to share with the Israeli public. Subsequently, we collect information from those clients who experienced the relevant injustice, as well as Hotline staff and volunteers who worked on this issue. Then begins the work of writing, editing, designing, printing, publishing in the media and sending the report to relevant decision-makers.

This year we published three reports: Immigration Detention in Israel, Annual Monitoring Report – 2019Trapped in Limbo: Israel’s Policy of Avoiding Making Decisions on Well-Founded Asylum Claims; and A Means To An End: Violation of Labor Rights by Foreign Contracting Companies in Israel, written together with our friends from Kav LaOved.

After publishing our reports, we initiate media attention on issues plaguing the community and use the information in policy advancement meetings with decision-makers. Many other actors use our reports, including students writing academic papers, lawyers writing petitions, and even judges crafting judgements in favor of migrants’ rights.

Help us disseminate knowledge that advances migrants’ rights
This year, we were assisted by a dedicated group of “Geeks for Human Rights” hi-tech volunteers: Amitai Netzer Tzernik, Amir Livneh Bar-On, Gilad Keinan, Rotem Lamfrom, Hagar Shilo, and Shai Efrati. These “Geeks” spent many hours designing and building an innovative tool for us, which allows us to process data from thousands of transcripts from hearings in the Detention Review Tribunal. Thanks to their work, we were able to extract significant and extensive information that contributed enormously to our annual detention monitoring report.

So, even if we do not succeed in getting the average Israeli to read 66 pages about the conditions in Israeli immigration detention, decision-makers who read the report, or see the headlines, or hear about court judgements will surely understand the intensity of the authorities’ failures and may even work to resolve them. Help us continue to explore and illuminate injustices as we enter 2021.

Sigal Rozen
Public Policy Director
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants

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