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Photo by: Ben Hartman
Israel to begin using 'open' detention facility for migrants
By BEN HARTMAN
12/12/2013
Israel Prison Service began moving 480 migrants currently held in nearby Saharonim prison to the facility.
 
The Israel Prison Service began operating the new open detention facility for African migrants in the Negev on Thursday. By the end of Thursday the IPS was only able to move 50 migrants, of a planned 480, to the facility nearby the Saharonim prison due to bad weather. They are expected to continue moving the rest on Friday.The IPS said the Interior Ministry compiled and gave them the list of names of which migrants to move.

The transfer follows the passing by the Knesset on Tuesday of an amendment to the anti-Infiltration law. The new Entry to Israel Bill comes after the Supreme Court canceled its previous version in September, saying it was disproportionate.

The legislation reduces the maximum amount of time a migrant can be kept in a closed detention facility, splitting the detainees into two categories.

Whereas before all migrants could be held in closed detention for three years pending a determination of their refugee status, now the default will be for migrants to be held in an open detention facility indefinitely.

Currently the facility has room for a maximum of 1,000 people and in the coming months will be expanded to house 3,300.

On Wednesday night, the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority said the detention facility will go into operation on December 12, and that with its opening they will also begin an increase in enforcement against Israelis illegally employing African migrants.

They said the enforcement will include not only fines but indictments for those found illegally employing African migrants.

In late November, the cabinet approved a plan to deal with illegal migration to Israel which is expected to cost as much as NIS 440 million. The plan includes what the government says are greater incentives for migrants to leave Israel, including upping the “voluntary return” stipend from $1,500 to $3,500.

It will also require the creation of 550 government positions to handle the migrant issue, to be taken from the Public Security Ministry, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, and the Economy and Trade Ministry.

The proposal also includes NIS 73m. for what the government said are programs to improve personal security of residents in areas with a high concentration of migrants, including hiring and deploying higher numbers of police.

At the time of the cabinet vote, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “We are determined to deport the tens of thousands of illegal migrants who are here after having reduced to zero the number of illegal labor migrants who enter Israel’s cities. The steps that we unanimously approved today are proportionate and necessary for maintaining the Jewish and democratic character of the state and will restore security to Israel’s citizens while upholding the directives of the High Court of Justice and international law.”

The new migrant bill was already put to use, as three men were caught illegally crossing the border from Egypt late Wednesday night and were taken to Saharonim.

According to Interior Ministry sources, the migrants said they came to Israel “because they heard there aren't tough laws against illegal work by foreigners.”
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