Eritrean migrants in Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Holot detention center will not be shut at the end of the month despite a High Court decision requiring the closure, Knesset Interior and Environment Committee Chair Miri Regev (Likud) vowed Tuesday.
Regev’s statement came during a heated committee meeting to discuss a third version of the so-called “Infiltrators Law” that was approved unanimously by the government on Sunday.
Under the new version of the bill, the state will be able to hold migrants for a maximum of 20 months in the Holot detention center in southern Israel, which currently is home to around 2,000 African migrants of a population of more than 50,000 in Israel.
The new rendition follows a decision by the High Court in September that gave the state 90 days to close Holot and stop the detention of illegal migrants in the center.
The bill has not been approved by the Knesset, which goes on break a week from Wednesday. If they are not able to force the bill through, the center stands to be closed by December 22, in keeping with the High Court ruling.
“This law will have teeth, and it won’t be up to judges to determine our immigration policy, rather the elected government”, Regev said.
Michal Rozin (Meretz), head of the Foreign Workers Committee, said during the meeting that the new bill doesn’t deal with the issue of checking the status of migrants or include any plan for rehabilitating South Tel Aviv, where most of the country’s African migrant population lives in high density neighborhoods.
MK Shimon Solomon (Yesh Atid), said the situation in South Tel Aviv calls for a law that will be in keeping with High Court rulings and won’t treat migrants “like animals or cancer.”
Meanwhile, MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said the repeated passing of bills meant to cause migrants to leave Israel “is being carried out on the backs of the residents of South Tel Aviv. We need to rehabilitate South Tel Aviv beginning tomorrow morning. We must also break down the unbearable density [of the area]. Even if there are 2,000 people in Holot, there are still 40,000 in the streets,” Khenin said.
For more than a year, the government has pursued a policy of encouraging “willful return” by preventing migrants from working legally and giving economic incentives for those willing to be deported, and by stiffening penalties on those hiring illegal migrants, he said.
During November, 224 migrants agreed to be deported, out of a total of 6,190 so far this year, the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority (PIBA) said in figures released Tuesday. No migrants entered Israel in November and only 21 total have left so far in 2014, it said.
Critics of the policy say the returns can’t be willful if the only alternative is imprisonment or if the person has no legal right to work or freedom of movement.
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