Migrant detention facility moves towards approval

Public will have 30 days to appeal plan once it’s made public; PIBA: ‘Infiltrators Law’ can be applied to migrants already being held.

Eritrean migrants, Sinai_311 (photo credit: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters)
Eritrean migrants, Sinai_311
(photo credit: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters)
The Negev detention facility meant to house thousands of African migrants moved one step closer to becoming official on Tuesday, when the National Planning and Building Council voted to pass the plan to the regional council approval phase.
The regional council phase is the last one before a final 30-day period of time where the public will be able to issue appeals. That phase will begin when the plans for the facility are made public in the coming days.
According to a report in Haaretz on Tuesday, the “Nahal Raviv” facility will be fenced in and made up of tents housing 23 people each, with a single bathroom and shower for each tent.
The report said the facility will house 4,000 migrants in four different wings, each including educational and religious facilities, clinics and libraries.
An employee of the architectural firm that planned the facility took issue with one aspect of the report, which said that the facility will only give 3.94-square meters to each detainee – less than the minimum 4.5 square-meters required by Israel Prisons Service regulations.
The employee told The Jerusalem Post that such regulations only apply to cells that have bathrooms and showers inside them, and are not relevant to Nahal Raviv, where the bathrooms and showers will be outside the tents.
The employee, who asked not to be named, also echoed a statement made by the Defense Department that the building will give migrants more room than IDF soldiers are given on military- base camps. He specified that the facility, which is currently well under construction next to Ketziot prison, will hook up to the same water and electrical suppliers of the prison, and that it will remain a tent city and at no point be a permanent facility with concrete walls.
The Defense Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the facility will take into account all the needs of the detainees, and will include “many types of public buildings, such as employment workshops, educational buildings, places of worship, clinics, kitchens, salons and more.” It said that the figures presented in the Haaretz report are not up to date and that the plans which will be made public soon will include the updated numbers.
The Defense Ministry added that it will work to replace the tents with permanent buildings as soon as possible.
The facility has been met by protests from residents of the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council, who have taken issue with the construction of what they say will be an inhumane facility within their district.
Currently the plan for Nahal Raviv gives it 30 months to operate as a tent camp, at which point the Defense Department can appeal for an extension to operate it for more time.
The Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority (PIBA) announced Tuesday that, beginning next week, they will begin arresting “infiltrators” with criminal records in order to jail them in keeping with the “Infiltrators Law.”
Passed by the Knesset in January, the Infiltrators Law allows Israel to jail for up to three years those caught illegally crossing into Israel.
PIBA said they came to the decision along with the Justice Ministry and Israel Police, and that under the new law, once police arrest an illegal migrant for committing a crime they can hand them over to PIBA, who can have them jailed for up to three years.
PIBA said those who are handed over by police will also have their work and temporary residence permits cancelled.