Opposition plans to filibuster Migrant Bill

MKs stop bill from being brought to vote, but coalition manages to block further attempts with parliamentary tricks.

Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention center 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention center 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Opposition MKs hope to filibuster the Migrant Bill into irrelevance, after preventing it from coming to a vote Wednesday hours after it was authorized by the Knesset Interior Committee.
“The goal is to kill time and delay the legislation until December 16th, when the court says the refugees have to be freed from Saharonim [holding facility] if there is no law,” MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) tweeted.
However, there are many tactics coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) can use to stop a nearly two-week filibuster from working, such as pulling all other bills from the agenda.
The new Infiltrators Bill, drafted last month after the Supreme Court canceled a previous version in September, was finalized by the Knesset Interior Committee Wednesday morning after a week of daily meetings on the legislation and is likely to be brought to a second and third (final) reading on Monday.
The original law put illegal migrants in a holding facility for up to three years without a trial, but the current draft would put them in an open detention facility, where they will be provided with food, shelter and medical services, for up to a year. Migrants will not be able to work and the government plans to enforce punishments for those who employ them.
Lawmakers gave long speeches about bills with a lower profile until 3 p.m. Wednesday, when the Knesset closed early in honor of the last night of Hanukka, and asked the Knesset Interior Committee for a revote on the bill, preventing Levin from submitting the legislation dealing with illegal migrants for its second and third readings.
MK Dov Henin requested a revision of the definitions of “refugee” and “asylum seeker” in the bill, which the Knesset Interior Committee voted down.
Immediately after, Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) submitted a request for a re-vote on the entire bill, lamenting that it does not solve the problem of migrants living in poor neighborhoods.
“I think all [migrants] should go to jail for two years,” she said with a grin.
Of course, Regev’s re-vote motion was a ruse; she voted against it herself, as did other coalition MKs in the committee.
However, according to Knesset regulations, once a revision on the entire bill is rejected, the opposition cannot table more re-votes.
The new law is expected to cost as much as NIS 440 million and create 550 new government jobs in the Public Security Ministry, the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority and the Economy Ministry.
The open detention facility is expected to be able to hold about 3,300 illegal migrants and will only take in those newly entering the country. It will be closed at night with head counts.
The bill also includes programs to improve the personal safety of residents in areas with a high concentration of migrants, including hiring and deploying more police.
There are an estimated 53,000 African migrants currently in Israel.
In addition, the proposal also includes an increase in the stipend given to Africans who agree to leave Israel voluntarily, from $1,500 to $3,500.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.