NEW YORK – The Geneva-based UN Refugee Agency said on Friday they were concerned about the new amendment to Israel’s law on the prevention of infiltration that would “further limit the rights of asylum-seekers,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters.

In particular, Edwards said, UNHCR is concerned about the provisions of the law that require asylum seekers to live in an open-resident facility in the Negev desert, with “severe restrictions on their movement.”

“The organization is concerned that this facility could, in effect, result in indefinite detention, with no release grounds,” Edwards told reporters.

Edwards also said UNHCR was concerned about automatic detention of new asylum-seekers who arrive in Israel in an “irregular manner,” as well as those whose visas have expired and who may be attempting to renew.

“UNHCR understands the challenges faced by Israel in managing the reception of migrants and asylum-seekers,” Edwards said. “However, it is important that the treatment of asylum-seekers be in line with international refugee and human rights law. All asylum-seekers should have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, as well as efficient means to renew their existing visas.”

Last week the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Israel “tries to balance the need to control its borders with the need to protect the human rights of those who enter.

Due to its adherence to international law, Israel granted protection to approximately 60,000 people without the need to prove prima facie that they have an individual claim to stay in Israel. Those individuals amount to approximately 95% of all individuals that entered Israel illegally through its southern border.”

The statement said the Population and Immigration Authority “has been examining hundreds of demands for asylum, in coordination with the UNHCR.”

All applications, the statement said, “are given thorough treatment, with priority given to those submitted by migrants staying in the Saharonim and Holot facilities. The examination is carried out in accordance with Israel’s international legal obligations, based on th UN Refugee Convention (1951). Enforcement is carried out under Israeli law and in conformity with Supreme Court rulings.”

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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