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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Haaretz - Israel News - Immigration Police make false arrests, ministry official says

Haaretz - Israel News - Immigration Police make false arrests, ministry official says

The Immigration Police are concealing documents and passports and making false arrests of foreign workers to fill the quota of deportations the government has set, according to a letter written by Ilan Elad, a senior official in the Interior Ministry.

Elad, responsible for enforcement of foreign workers' residency laws in the Tel Aviv area, sent a letter last week to the commander of the Immigration Police, Amir Gal. In the letter, which came into the possession of Haaretz, Elad relates a incident that occurred on Saturday, May 22, after arrests of foreign workers near the Tel Aviv central bus station. Among the 126 foreign nationals arrested, 40 were defined by police as "anonymous." An Interior Ministry representative who was with the police at the time found that the 40 did have identifying documents and were in Israel legally.

The representative, Moti Berkovitz, a senior enforcement official, ordered the group released immediately but the police ignored the order. When officials from the Interior Ministry's enforcement unit arrived at the Holon lockup on Saturday night to process the detained foreign workers, they were surprised to discover that the group of 40 was still in custody, Elad said.

After cross-checking their names with those in the immigration police computers, the contractors association and their employment agency, the decision to release them was confirmed. "The Immigration Police in Tel Aviv were displeased with the decision," Elad wrote.

"At that point, demands were made at the command level of the Tel Aviv Immigration Police for me to change my decision," Elad wrote. Because he refused to do so, Elad says attempts have been made to prevent him from carrying out his job, including concealing documents and detained workers' passports. According to Elad, "this is done to create the impression that the foreign citizen is in Israel illegally."

In response, the Immigration Police stated that Major General Berty Ohayon called a meeting of all those involved to discuss areas of disagreement, which were resolved. With regard to the arrests of May 22, the statement said that some of the foreign nationals detained had only photocopies of their passport, which raised a reasonable suspicion that they were illegal, especially considering the frequency of forging such documents.

"The police operated within their authority and the law in detaining all the suspects. Relations between the police and the Interior Ministry are good; both have the common goal of deporting illegal foreign nationals," the statement said.

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