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
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
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
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
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.”