Security Prisoner
Security Detainee
Administrative Detainee
Total
27.3.2019

HaMoked petitions the High Court of Justice on behalf of a Palestinian man imprisoned in Israel as an illegal alien for over two years: Israel’s denial of family unification in the West Bank is the reason for his incarceration

On March 24, 2019, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to enable the grant of permanent status in the oPt to Ma’an Abu Hafez, a young Palestinian man who has been held in prison inside Israel, without trial, as an illegal alien, for over two years, since his incidental arrest in the West Bank in February 2017. HaMoked also demanded that Abu Hafez not be deported from the West Bank or Israel to any other country pending a decision in his case.

Ma’an Abu Hafez was born in Brazil in 1994 to a Palestinian father and a Brazilian mother. In 1997, when he was three-years-old, the family moved to the West Bank, but shortly after the father left his family without arranging the status of his wife and children. The mother and children, thus left without status in the oPt, continued to live in the Jenin Refugee Camp, helped by the father’s relatives and without any contact with the mother’s family in Latin America, who severed contact with her following her marriage. In 2007, when he was ten, Ma’an’s paternal uncle filed a request for family unification with him, his mother and siblings – a procedure that requires Israel’s initial approval. However, since 2000 Israel has been freezing the handling of thousands of such requests, thereby condemning thousands of people to live in their homes in the West Bank either with just temporary visitor permits or, as in Ma’an’s case, with no status at all – as illegal aliens constantly under threat of deportation.

Since his transfer to the custody of the Ministry of Interior, Ma’an has been pressured to agree to leave for Brazil, but he remains adamant that the West Bank is his only home and that he has no ties to Brazil, a country he left as a toddler. For their part, Brazil embassy representatives have told HaMoked that Ma’an’s Brazilian status is yet to be proved and that no action would be taken in his case against his will. HaMoked’s requests to release Ma’an have all been turned down by the Tribunal reviewing custody of “illegal aliens”, although Israeli jurisprudence does not permit prolonged imprisonment in this framework, and despite the humanitarian circumstances of the case.

The Tribunal based its decision not to release Ma’an on a provision of the Entry into Israel Law, which allows the continued incarceration of an illegal alien in Israel, if “his release may pose a threat to the security of the State”. The Tribunal adopted the legal gymnastics of the Ministry of Interior, whereby Ma’an has been illegally present in Israel ever since he landed at Israeli Ben Gurion international airport as a three-year-old – disregarding the fact that he and his family immediately traveled to the West Bank, their home ever since. Furthermore, the habitual claim of a[n undisclosed] security threat was irrelevant and invalid given that this is not a Palestinian incarcerated as a criminal or even as an administrative detainee, but as an illegal alien, and moreover, one that lacks legal status in his home solely due to Israel’s policy in the West Bank. Thus Ma’an remains in prison, without any foreseeable release date and in complete uncertainty as to his fate. It should be noted that his mother and siblings cannot visit him because, being without status, they cannot apply to receive entry permits for the purpose of visiting a relative imprisoned inside Israel.

It seems the Israeli military for its part is doing its utmost to bring about Ma’an’s deportation to Brazil. On October 31, 2019, following HaMoked’s query about the family unification request filed years earlier, the military took the unusual step of responding that the application had been rejected due to a “real threat to the security of the Area [i.e., the oPt]”, based on undisclosed security material “as of the period preceding his incarceration”. This is the only decision the military has issued in years in any HaMoked case regarding a request for legal status in the oPt, and runs contrary to Israel’s freeze policy. It therefore seems that this is nothing but a cynical decision whose only purpose is to facilitate Ma’an’s deportation.

In its petition, HaMoked demanded the reversal of the decision not to approve Ma’an’s request for status in oPt in the framework of a family unification procedure, and also the revocation of the freeze policy itself. This petition joins a series of petitions filed recently by HaMoked on this issue, but is the only one dealing with the status of a child rather than a foreign spouse of a resident of the oPt. Its uniqueness reflects the unusual humanitarian circumstances of this case (among them the fact that as a child he could have been easily registered had his father filed a request to have him registered), and the impassable bureaucratic obstacle Israel has raised before many Palestinians who want to lead normal lives and realize their right to family life.

On March 26, 2019, the HCJ issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the man’s deportation “from the Judea and Samaria Area [i.e. the West Bank] until a further decision is issued… “. Meanwhile, until the court reaches a decision in his case, Ma’an will remain in prison, now for the 25th month, charged with no crime and cut off from his family and entire life.
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