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HaMoked to the state: the workload of the Appeals Tribunal undermines the rights of those appealing to it and its continued operation must be evaluated

In 2011, Amendment No. 22 to the Entry into Israel Law, 5712-1952, was enacted, prescribing the establishing of an appeals tribunal that would be authorized, inter alia, to review decision issued by the Ministry of Interior’s Population and Immigration Authority. The Tribunal was meant to replace the Court for Administrative Affairs and the Ministry of Interior’s Appellate Committees for Foreigners in regulating the presence, visas and status of non-Israeli citizens. Even before the Tribunal was established in 2014, human rights organizations, among them HaMoked, voiced concern that the Tribunal would collapse under its caseload. Therefore, the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee decided that the order instituting the Tribunal would first be passed as a temporary order, valid for two years only, during which time, its performance would be evaluated.

Ahead of the Order’s May 28, 2016 expiration date, HaMoked wrote to the Ministry of Justice, under which the Tribunal operates, to request an in-depth examination of the Tribunal’s operation before the Knesset’s committee vote on prolonging its activity. HaMoked noted that contrary to earlier estimates that the Tribunal – in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv districts – would deliberate some 2,000 cases per year, in the first 18 months of operation, over 5,000 appeals had been submitted to it. HaMoked asserted that based on its accumulated experience, the Tribunal was overburdened due to insufficient allocation of positions, and rather than achieving a breakthrough in the processing of immigration and residency cases, it was directly harming the rights of those who turned to it.

HaMoked stressed that it was assisting Israeli residents and their relatives – some stateless – under threat of deportation so long as their case was pending. However, due to the Tribunal’s severe workload, applicants were not getting prompt and efficient resolution in their cases. The understaffing and increasing caseload have led to warped and unacceptable practices, which directly undermine applicants’ basic rights, including due process. Thus, inter alia, the Tribunal routinely suggests that the appellants forgo the oral hearing in order to expedite the proceedings; another practice that had taken root is the holding of a classified hearing on an ex parte basis, without hearing the appellants’ arguments close in proximity to the hearing, either before or after it. Thus, the delicate system of checks and balances gradually developed by the courts has been destabilized.

On May 25, 2016, the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee of the Knesset convened to discuss the continued operation of the Tribunal. The Committee refused the Ministry of Justice’s request, sent shortly before the meeting, to approve the amendment to the Entry into Israel Law as permanent legislation (rather than still as a temporary order). The Committee decided to extend the validity of the Amendment until the end of 2016, to allow adequate review of the Tribunal’s manpower capacity and its work, and also hold in-depth discussions on the issue with human rights organizations acting vis-à-vis the Tribunal. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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