Bill aimed against African migrants pulled by gov’t

Human rights organizations condemned proposed law.

sudanese refugees egypt 311 (photo credit: AP)
sudanese refugees egypt 311
(photo credit: AP)
Organizations that work with African infiltrators and refugees congratulated a Wednesday government decision to withdraw a bill that would have imposed strict measures against the infiltrators and those providing them with assistance.
The Infiltration Prevention Bill had passed its first reading in the previous Knesset with only one MK – Dov Khenin (Hadash) – opposing it, but on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser informed the Knesset’s Interior Committee that the government had decided to pull the bill.
Human rights organizations had long condemned the bill, which would have allowed the courts to sentence any asylum-seeker who crossed the Israel-Egypt border to up to seven years in prison. The bill did not differentiate between refugees and asylum-seekers – who are entitled to protection under international protocols – and those simply seeking work.
If it had passed, it would have also grounded in law the so-called “hot return” to Egypt policy of expelling infiltrators within 72 hours, without offering a chance to apply for asylum or meet UN Refugee Commission officials.
It also mandated jail sentences for those who aid asylum- seekers or migrant workers.
Hauser did not offer an explanation for the government’s decision, but Interior Committee Chairman David Azoulay told the Post that Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman had asked that the bill be shelved, while Amnesty International director Itai Epstein attributed the move to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
A consortium of aid organizations congratulated the government Wednesday, saying that the bill had constituted a “fatal blow to the rights of asylum-seekers, and would have grossly violated international treaties to which Israel is a signatory.”
“One can see here how a public struggle for the values and image of Israel lead to a significant accomplishment – the withdrawal of this draconian bill,” said Elisheva Milikovsky, of the Organization to Aid Refugees and Asylum-Seekers.
The organizations emphasized, however, that their struggle continues.
“Israel still has no organized immigration policy, and the air of public incitement against refugees is on the rise,” said Ran Cohen, of Physicians for Human Rights. “The organizations will continue to act to ensure that Israel adopts a humane and organized immigration policy that respects human rights.”
Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.