African migrant woman.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The cabinet this week approved a plan to deal with illegal migration to Israel,
which is expected to cost as much as NIS 440 million. The program is to use
increased measures to “encourage migrants to leave Israel” including higher
voluntary return stipends, and the creation of 550 government positions to
tackle the issue.
The 550 government positions is to reinforce the Public
Security Ministry, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, and the
Economy and Trade Ministry.
The NIS 440m. is to be taken from other
government ministries, largely to fund the construction and operation of the
“open detention facility” in the south, which is expected to be able to hold
around 3,300 of the estimated 53,000 African migrants in Israel.
proposal includes NIS 73m. for programs to improve the personal security of
residents in areas with a high concentration of migrants, including the hiring
and deployment of higher numbers of police.
In addition, the proposal
includes an increase in the stipend given to Africans who agree to leave Israel
voluntarily, from $1,500 to $3,500.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
said Sunday in regards to the program, “we are determined to deport the tens of
thousands of illegal migrants who are here after having reduced to zero the
number of illegal labor migrants who enter Israel’s cities. The steps that we
unanimously approved today are proportionate and necessary for maintaining the
Jewish and democratic character of the state and will restore security to
Israel’s citizens while upholding the directives of the High Court of Justice
and international law.”
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, for his part,
said “the current plan provides essential tools for the struggle against illegal
migration into the State of Israel, pursuant to the ruling of the High Court of
Justice. We must stand as a fortified wall to uphold the vital interests of the
State of Israel and its citizens.”
The Israeli government prefers to not
refer to the facility as a prison or detention center, saying instead it will be
an open facility where migrants will have their needs met, which be closed at
night with head counts.
“Illegal migrants in Israel will be directed to
the facility where their physical needs – including lodging, food and drink, and
basic health needs – will be provided for. Illegal migrants directed to the
facility will be unable to work.
Thus, for the first time, the ban on
employing them will be enforced. Concomitantly, the state will begin enforcement
actions against those who employ illegal migrants who reside at the facility,”
the PMO said on Sunday.
The government plan is an answer of sorts to the
High Court decision in September to revoke the amendment to the Infiltrators
Law, which allowed for the detention without trial for up to three years of
people caught illegally entering the country.