African migrants transport vegetables in south Tel Aviv 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Justice Ministry on Wednesday rejected criticism from Knesset legal adviser
Eyal Yinon over a bill to transform the country’s policy on migrants.
existing policy was struck down in mid-September by the High Court of Justice as
Though he did not explicitly call the proposed
legislation illegal, Yinon questioned whether it would meet the standard of
legality set by the court’s decision.
In response, the Justice Ministry
said that Yinon “has his opinion, and we have our opinion,” and made it clear
that it did not view the Knesset legal adviser’s criticism as an obstacle to the
The biggest differences between the new and old policies are that
illegal migrants would now be placed in detention for one year, as opposed to
three years, without a decision as to refugee status, and that detention
centers, at least in name, would now be considered “open” as opposed to closed
facilities resembling jails.
In that spirit, Yinon did say that the
proposed policy would be more “balanced and proportionate” in that it would both
shorten the amount of time migrants could be held and put them in an open
facility. In addition, “closed” detention centers referenced in the legislation
would apply only to newly arrived migrants and those who violate rules at the
“open” detention center.
Yet he still found several problems.
example, the bill says the government can release migrants after one year but is
not required to do so. In addition, only two of the nine justices who called for
the old policy to be canceled explicitly said that shortening the detention
period would have made it acceptable. The other justices did not directly
address the issue but appeared to invalidate the deterrence principle that any
extended holding period would be based on.
Yinon also said the government
must make sure that any open holding facility would be significantly different
from a jail and, as such, that the bill specify what it would
Although he also pointed to problems with a part of the bill
saying a migrant from a country seen to be a danger to national security could
be held indefinitely, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, in a Knesset Interior
Committee meeting on Wednesday, insisted that the section could not be
The meeting had been called to prepare the bill for its second
and third readings next Tuesday.
Tempers flared at the committee meeting
when Sa’ar said the government, as a matter of course, checks the status of each
migrant who asks to be considered a refugee, and MK Dov Henin (Hadash), in
response, asked for exact numbers and the decisions on their status.
one point the discussion deteriorated to a shouting match between the two. Sa’ar
angrily said Henin was “from a party that represented dark communist regimes,”
adding that the MK “represents the migrants and I represent the people of
Henin demanded that Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev
(Likud Beytenu) call Sa’ar to order “so we don’t go back to the days of
McCarthy.” Sa’ar retorted: “Or so we don’t go back to the days of Stalin.”