sudanese refugees egypt 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Organizations that work with African infiltrators and refugees congratulated a
Wednesday government decision to withdraw a bill that would have imposed strict
measures against the infiltrators and those providing them with
The Infiltration Prevention Bill had passed its first reading
in the previous Knesset with only one MK – Dov Khenin (Hadash) – opposing it,
but on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser informed the Knesset’s Interior
Committee that the government had decided to pull the bill.
organizations had long condemned the bill, which would have allowed the courts
to sentence any asylum-seeker who crossed the Israel-Egypt border to up to seven
years in prison. The bill did not differentiate between refugees and
asylum-seekers – who are entitled to protection under international protocols –
and those simply seeking work.
If it had passed, it would have also
grounded in law the so-called “hot return” to Egypt policy of expelling
infiltrators within 72 hours, without offering a chance to apply for asylum or
meet UN Refugee Commission officials.
It also mandated jail sentences for
those who aid asylum- seekers or migrant workers.
Hauser did not offer an
explanation for the government’s decision, but Interior Committee Chairman David
Azoulay told the Post that Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman had asked that the
bill be shelved, while Amnesty International director Itai Epstein attributed
the move to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
A consortium of aid
organizations congratulated the government Wednesday, saying that the bill had
constituted a “fatal blow to the rights of asylum-seekers, and would have
grossly violated international treaties to which Israel is a
“One can see here how a public struggle for the values and
image of Israel lead to a significant accomplishment – the withdrawal of this
draconian bill,” said Elisheva Milikovsky, of the Organization to Aid Refugees
The organizations emphasized, however, that their
“Israel still has no organized immigration policy,
and the air of public incitement against refugees is on the rise,” said Ran
Cohen, of Physicians for Human Rights. “The organizations will continue to act
to ensure that Israel adopts a humane and organized immigration policy that
respects human rights.”
Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.