In a letter received by Adalah on 30 May 2003, the Minister of Interior, Avraham Poraz, instructed the Director of the Ministry of Interior’s Population Administration to permit nine members of the European Voluntary Service (EVS) to enter Israel. The nine volunteers were previously refused entry to Israel on 11 May 2003. In his letter, Minister Poraz stated that after consulting with Israeli security forces, and establishing that there was no justification for preventing the entrance of the volunteers, he decided that the group should be allowed to enter the country.
The volunteers, from six European countries, first came to Israel in February 2003 for a six-month youth exchange program under the auspices of the Euro-Med Youth Programme. During the first three months, the volunteers worked with local NGOs in Haifa, East Jerusalem and Hebron on a range of activities with disabled children and unemployed youth as well as a variety of social and cultural projects. Following the expiration of their initial three-month tourist visas, the volunteers traveled to Jordan. When they attempted to return to Israel one week later, they were denied entry without justification.
The Minister’s letter followed a petition and a motion for an immediate hearing filed by Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker on behalf of the nine volunteers and Baladna - Association for Arab Youth, against the Minister of Interior on 28 May 2003. In the petition submitted to the Nazareth District Court, Adalah argued that the decision to prevent the volunteers from entering Israel violates Israel’s commitments under the Barcelona Declaration. Adalah further argued that the Ministry of Interior exercised its discretion in an arbitrary manner, without any criteria and without providing any reasons to justify its decision to deny the volunteers entry to Israel.
At a hearing before the Nazareth District Court on 2 June 2003, Adalah requested that the Ministry of Interior pay all legal expenses associated with the case, and compensate the petitioners for the costs associated with the Ministry’s decision to deny the volunteers entry to Israel. Adalah argued that the Ministry should pay these costs as Minister Poraz admitted in the letter that there was no justification for preventing the entrance of the volunteers, and thus, the Ministry of Interior failed to act in accordance with its own policies.