Response received to Gisha’s freedom of information application regarding a procedure denying entry into Israel to Palestinian debtors
On January 29, 2015, Gisha sent the Freedom of Information Officer at the Ministry of Justice an application for information about the implementation of the procedure regarding Denial of Entry into Israel to Debtors from the Palestinian Authority (Hebrew), issued by the Legal Assistance Supervisor at the Ministry of Justice.
The procedure stipulates that any government authority or private creditor may contact the Legal Assistance Supervisor at the Ministry of Justice with a request to deny entry into Israel to a Palestinian who has unpaid fines or who is the subject of debt execution procedures.
In our application, we asked for figures relating to the implementation of the procedure, and specifically, how widely it is used. For instance, we asked for the number of applications filed both by government authorities and private creditors by year, type of debt and amount owed, and how many of these requests were approved. We also asked for the number of debtors who were under an entry ban in late 2014.
On April 12, 2015, we received the response of the Ministry of Justice (Hebrew), which revealed that the procedure is in fact widely used, particularly in cases in which there is a police report against West Bank residents or reports from another government body, as well as cases in which the debt does not exceed 10,000 NIS. The response also reveals that the procedure is mostly used by government authorities interested in preventing debtors from entering Israel as opposed to corporations, which have relatively small debts owed. In addition, according to the ministry’s response, despite the fact that there are procedures in place for filing objections and appeals against decisions made under the procedure, not a single objection or appeal was filed between 2011 and 2014.
It is important to note that the persons affected are often Palestinians who have Israeli work permits, and once the decision is made, they are denied the opportunity to earn money and thus pay back their debts. Furthermore, they find out about the entry ban only when they arrive at a checkpoint, without receiving any prior notice, which is why they cannot pay the debt before the ban is issued or clarify the situation when the ban is the result of a debt notice issued in error.
These figures lend support to the position that the procedure constitutes a severe, unreasonable and disproportionate violation of Palestinians’ rights to freedom of movement and freedom of occupation.