The Knesset plenum .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Knesset on Monday night was expected to pass a first reading of a new amendment to the anti-infiltration law, which would allow the state to keep African migrants in the Negev’s “Holot” detention center for up to 12 months.
The cabinet unanimously approved the amendment a week ago, which follows a ruling in August by the Supreme Court that permitted the detention of migrants at Holot but thought a 20 month maximum term was disproportionate.
The court had called for the Knesset to revise the legislation within 6 months, and it temporarily limited the length of detention to 12 months.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) said Monday he expects the amendment to pass a final reading and become law in the coming days.
The High Court has repeatedly struck down so-called anti-infiltration legislation in the past few years, largely due to the court’s objections to the length of incarceration of migrants. The government says the migrants are illegal though many have received temporary permits after stealing across the border usually from Egypt.
Israeli NGOs that support the migrant community may win a cancellation of the current amendment as well if they contest it in court.
During the cabinet meeting last Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in recent years Israel has repatriated some 22,000 migrants entering Israel illegally, either through cash incentives, restricting the amount of money they can send home, making it difficult or illegal for them to work, and jailing many in Holot.
As of last march the number of African migrants was listed by the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority as around 42,000, most of them coming from Sudan and Eritrea, two nations cited by international organizations for human rights issues.
On Monday, Netanyahu said the latest amendment is meant to strengthen Israel’s ability to stop “illegal infiltration.” He said Israel “is one of the only countries in the western world, possibly the only one, that managed to stop this illegal infiltration.”
Netanyahu credited construction of a border fence with Egypt, completed in 2012, and legislation directed against the migrants for quelling the influx.