Knesset passes anti-infiltration bill

Netanyahu’s proposal allows illegal immigrants to be held in custody over years without a trial.

January 10, 2012 02:12
2 minute read.
Sudanese detained after crossing southern border

Sudanese detained after crossing southern border 311 (R). (photo credit: Yonathan Weitzman / Reuters)


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The key legislation in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s illegal immigration policy passed in its second and third (final) readings overnight Monday, allowing for such immigrants to be kept in custody for years without a trial.

Knesset Interior Affairs Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) presented the bill late Monday night, explaining that the Bill to Prevent Infiltration is the best way to deal with the “plague” of people illegally crossing Israel’s southern border.

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Previously, the law did not allow an illegal immigrant to be put in custody for over 60 days, even if it takes the state more time to determine his or her status or deport the immigrant. Cohen called this situation an “incentive for infiltrators” to enter Israel.

The new law, which passed with 37 in favor and eight opposed, will allow the state to keep these immigrants in prison much longer, and has stricter guidelines for releasing them from prison. In addition, the law establishes a system for supervising the illegal immigrants’ deportation.

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The Law to Prevent Infiltration will be in effect for three years, after which the government will examine its influence on illegal immigration into Israel.

Cohen explained that the law also says that the illegal immigrants must be held under conditions that will not harm their health or their dignity, and that the bill’s explanatory section says it will not breach the UN Convention on Refugees.

However, last month, William Tall, a representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Israel wrote in a letter that he thinks otherwise, and asked the Knesset to specify in the legislation’s text that it did not apply to those who fell under the UN’s definition of a refugee, which it did not do.

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