On February 20, 2017, a 22-year-old Palestinian resident of the Jenin Refugee Camp was arrested by Israeli security forces at a mobile checkpoint in the West Bank. The young man has been held behind bars ever since, with no charges having been brought against him.
The young man was born in Brazil in 1994 to a Palestinian father and a Brazilian mother. In 1997, when he was 3 years old, the family entered Israel through Ben Gurion airport, and moved to the West Bank. A few months later, the father abandoned the family and disappeared. The mother and her children have lived in the Jenin Refugee Camp ever since, where the children grew up and went to school. In 2007 the young man's uncle (his father's brother) submitted a family unification request in the West Bank for the mother and her minor children, but the request was never responded to by Israel, and has not been approved or rejected to this day.
While the Oslo accords transferred authority over the Palestinian population registry to the Palestinian Authority, Israel maintains control over the approval of family unification requests and the issuance of visas to foreigners. For many years, Israel has enforced a restrictive policy regarding family unification in the West Bank, and since 2000, this avenue has been almost completely blocked. Thus, residents of the occupied territories are denied the right to family unification, and their spouse and other relatives are forced to live in the area with only a temporary visitor's visa, or with no legal status at all.
Since his arrest, representatives of the Ministry of Interior have attempted to pressure the young man to leave for Brazil, but he continues to insist that the West Bank is his only home and he has no relationship with Brazil, which he left when he was a toddler.
On May 16, 2018, HaMoked submitted a request to release the young man from custody to the Supervisory Court for Remanded Illegal Aliens. The request included substantial evidence indicating the young man has been living in the West Bank for some two decades, and his removal to Brazil would amount to sending him to an uncertain fate. Additionally, HaMoked presented evidence that Brazil will not accept the young man against his will, and there is therefore, in practice, no way to deport him. High Court case law indicates that given the inability to deport him, he must be released from custody. Additionally, HaMoked noted that the young man's request for family unification (and that of the rest of his family) is suspended to this day by Israel, similarly to thousands of other such requests.
A hearing was held on the matter on the day the request was submitted. The Court rejected the young man's request for release, ruling that his life would not be at risk if returned to Brazil, and "the described affinity to the Palestinian territories does not amount to special humanitarian conditions necessitating release from custody".
HaMoked will continue to represent the young man vis-à-vis this callous system, and an additional hearing on the matter will take place in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the young man is concluding the month of Ramadan in an Israeli prison for the second years, separated from his family, though he has been accused of nothing.