Amnesty: Knesset mustn't ok refugee law

London-based group urges lawmakers to reject bill that would toughen prison terms for asylum seekers.

refugee at border 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
refugee at border 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The Knesset should reject draft legislation that would put seekers of asylum in Israel at grave risk, the London-based Amnesty International said on Monday. The Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee is meeting Tuesday to discuss the draft Prevention of Infiltration Law 2008. In a memorandum to the committee, Amnesty urged legislators to reject the proposed law, which would impose up to five or seven years' prison sentences on asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants. Amnesty says that the bill disregards the infiltrators' reasons for entering the country, allowing immediate deportation without regard for the possible ill-treatment or persecution to which they may be subject on their return. Amnesty said it recognizes Israel's right to secure its borders and regulate the entry of foreigners into its territory, but is concerned about the potential impact of the proposed law on the rights of asylum seekers and other non-nationals. "The criminalization of irregular entry, without taking into account the reasons for entry or the risk of removal, effectively bars individuals coming into Israel from seeking asylum. The proposed law would potentially criminalize those who seek protection from persecution," Amnesty said. The detention and removal process set out in the draft law, especially the high level of discretion granted to officers for the removal of people within 72 hours, are inconsistent with Israel's obligations under international treaties, including the Refugee Convention, to prevent the return of individuals to countries where they may be at risk of serious human rights violations. Amnesty said the draft law fails to take into account the particularly vulnerable situation of asylum seekers and refugees. "Such procedures would effectively deny individuals fleeing persecution access to refugee status determination procedures, and fall far short of Israel's international legal obligations as a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol." Amnesty urged the Knesset members to ensure that any immigration or national security provisions fully respect Israel's international human rights obligations, including ensuring the protection of all individuals within its jurisdiction, regardless of their immigration status, and ensuring that individuals are not returned to states where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses.