Knesset 'infiltrators law': Migrants’ ‘open’ detention

The Knesset passed on Tuesday an amended version of the “infiltrators law” that was struck down by the Supreme Court three months ago. A new detention centre for African migrants was due to open by the weekend in the Negev not far from the Egyptian border.

The original law proposed by the Interior Ministry would have allowed for the imprisonment of illegal migrants for up to three years but the Supreme Court ruled that it was disproportionate. The amended law which passed 30-15 after a long and stormy session allows for detention in a new “open” facility for up to a year. Interior Minister Gideon Saar said: “not only are we not ashamed by this law, we would have been ashamed if we had not acted to defend the state of Israel and its citizens.”

MK Stav Shaffir (Labour) attacked the law saying that “it doesn’t create a long-term solution. It’s a fake solution that will satisfy the government until the next survey on television.”

The new law also sets the guidelines for operating the detention centre. The first detainees will be nearly 500 migrants already in prison for crossing the border illegally and there are expected to be up to 1,000 in the first stage and over 3,000 in two months.

This is the first time the Israeli Prison Service is operating an “open” facility and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aronovitch was careful not to call it a “prison” when visiting it on Tuesday. The detainees will not be allowed to leave after 10 at night and it is unclear at this stage whether any of them will be allowed to work during the day.

A coalition of Israeli human-rights organisations said the legislation “shames Israeli democracy by allowing incarceration without judicial review and without time-limits.”

Last updated: 1:43pm, December 12 2013