Eritreans free from Israeli jail
5/9/2013, 12:29 p.m.
Nine Eritrean women and 10 children, ranging from 18 months to 7 years of age, were released from the Saharonim Detention Center, where they had been held for the last 8-12 months under the Prevention of Infiltration Law.
Israel's Ministry of the Interior Population, Immigration and Border Authority approved the release sought by the Hotline for Migrant Workers, a human rights group. The group persuaded the president judge of Be'er Sheva Court that the minor ages of the children were sufficient humanitarian grounds for their release.
Human rights groups say that another 14 children are being held at Saharonim who are not being represented by the nongovernmental organization.
Adi Lerner, head of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, said the group was troubled by the jailing of migrant children. "We don't see why it was necessary to lock up young children for such a long period, or why the state needed the court to see what is clear to everyone," he said, adding, "Children don't belong behind bars, no matter what their origins."
He further criticized the state's failure to inform the detainees' attorneys or their relatives in Israel of the release. "Although we represent them, they didn't even tell us [on Monday] of the release," said attorney Raya Meiler, of the Hotline. "We heard it as a rumor ... In the end, our clients got on a bus that made every local stop and got to Tel Aviv after midnight. It was we who contacted the families."
Meanwhile, in a "rebellion" over prison conditions similar to those at Guantanamo, Eritrean asylum seekers refused to return to their cells, claiming their detention was unlawful. The Prevention of Infiltration Law, passed last year "turns asylum seekers into criminals," the Haaretz newspaper wrote in an editorial.