If the government does not immediately release 31 refugee children from prison, the Knesset Committee for the Rights of the Child would call the relevant ministers in for an urgent hearing on Wednesday, committee chairman MK Danny Danon said Sunday.
Danon said that he had turned to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog with a demand for the immediate release of the children being held in Givon Prison.
The children in question range in age from 12 to 18, and all entered Israel illegally - and alone - via the Egyptian border, trekking from such places as Sudan and Eritrea without their families.
In the letter that he sent to the ministers, Danon wrote, "it is no secret that I support an immediate resolution, through a wide-encompassing program, to deal with all of the different varieties of illegal immigrants who have come to Israel in recent years.
"It is indeed difficult to look into the eyes of these children who sought in Israel a place to create a better life for themselves, and to tell them that they must leave this country. But together with that, as a nation that suffered in its history persecution on the basis of racism, we should do it differently, in accordance with the values of the Jewish nation and not in a way reminiscent of dark regimes." Â
Danon said that he visited the facility two weeks ago, where he saw what his office described as the "horrific conditions" in which the children were being held.
Danon stressed that the children are being kept six to a cell, in a facility completely unsuited for juveniles. The other two wards of the prison hold adults - one ward for criminals and the second for foreign workers.
The Likud MK said that the Israel Prisons Service wardens were doing their best to make the teens feel at home, but that the task was nearly impossible.
"There is one teacher who comes to teach them Hebrew, but beyond that, they receive no educational opportunities," Danon complained.
"No child in the world, whether or not they committed any crime, deserves these kind of conditions," Danon continued in his letter.
"Every day that passes in which a child gets 25 square meters in which to play with his friends, to use the bathrooms with everyone watching, is a stain on us as a society and on the Israeli society as a whole.
"I call upon you to immediately create for these children an appropriate alternative framework that will be suitable for 31 children to feel like they are children again, and not criminals." Â
Danon warned that if the children's conditions did not change by Wednesday, both Herzog and Aharonovich would be summoned to a hearing before his committee.
Herzog's office said that they were not familiar with Danon's letter.
Danon, together with MK Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz), is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit the jailing of refugee children, and mandate that authorities find an alternative frameworks for them.
The bill was delayed before being submitted to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, pending negotiations with Herzog.
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