Justice Ministry quietly proposes new bill that revises migrant policy

The ministry made no announcement and gave no explanation for the unusually low-profile publication and media reports.

By
November 10, 2013 22:11
2 minute read.
African migrants transport vegetables in south Tel Aviv

African migrants transport vegetables in south Tel Aviv 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Justice Ministry-sponsored bill to substantially revise policy toward illegal African migrants was uploaded late Thursday night on the Israel Government Portal.

The standard practice for publicizing such important bills is for the Justice Ministry to directly distribute them. The ministry made no announcement and gave no explanation for the unusually low-profile publication and media reports – for the bill – that only started to surface Sunday morning.

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The bill proposes the placement of the migrants in a special detention center for only one year rather than the three years set in the current legislation by the High Court of Justice.

The current law’s provision established the detention as a 24-hour situation is changed in the new bill to permit the migrants to leave an “open” detention center during the day, while being required to sleep there at night.

In addition, the new bill requires migrants to “register” and present themselves at the detention center three times during daylight hours, This is meant to prevent them from leaving the center to work.

It is unclear where the migrants will be able to travel, as the current plan is, reportedly, to build the detention center in the middle of the desert.

Despite reports that the Prison Service opposes involvement with such an unconventional open detention center, the bill said that operating the facility will mostly fall on the service under the direction of the interior minister.

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The Defense Ministry is assigned with the construction and establishment of the facility.

The bill authorizes transferring migrants who violate the curfew hours or prohibition against working to closed detention centers under certain circumstances, which are not entirely clarified.

The bill dictates that it will initially only run for a three year “emergency” period, following which the Knesset would need to reauthorize it in order for it to continue.

Like the previous legislation, the preamble of the new bill said that its purpose is to stem the tide of new migrants crossing illegally into Israel.

Several government leaders have also made statements about the bill being intended to “convince” migrants who are already here either to return to their home countries or to leave for a third country, possibly offering payments from the state for them to do so.

The preamble to the bill quotes Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis and Justice Neal Hendel as supporting most of the concept behind the old law and as being willing to uphold a revision of the law which would substantially shorten the three-year detention period.

Next, the preamble cites Justices Edna Arbel (who wrote the majority High Court opinion which struck down the old law), Uzi Vogelman and Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam Naor as having suggested the open detention center idea as positive examples of what other Western democracies have done to handle their migrant issues.

Various pro-migrant NGOs have already suggested they will return to the High Court to strike down any bill with similar provisions regarding a detention center, potentially setting up another round of judicial drama, should the bill become law.

In response to the media confusion surrounding the unusual manner in which the bill was published, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein sent out an explanation of the bill’s main provisions late Sunday night.

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