'Speed construction of migrants' detention center'

National Planning and Construction Council pushes for Negev holding facility for African migrants to be build faster.

Eritrean migrants living in Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Eritrean migrants living in Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The National Planning and Construction Council will push for changes in the infrastructure of a Negev holding facility for African migrants in order to allow it to be built faster, according to a statement released by the council on Wednesday.
The council said that the changes to the original plan approved by the government in March would place more emphasis on tents and non-permanent buildings in order to expedite the construction of the facility. However, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said during the meeting that the changes must not bring with them any sort of decline in the humanitarian standards of the facility, which is expected to house tens of thousands of migrants.
The facility, to be built next to Ketziot Prison in the Negev, will include public buildings such as schools, religious facilities, social clubs, employment workshops and open leisure areas.
When complete, the facility is set to cover some 250 acres of land and house 8,000 to 10,000 people, making it the world’s largest housing facility for asylum seekers.
During the meeting, opposition to the adaptations were voiced by Ramat Negev Regional Council head Samuel Rifman, who said the council would favor instead a facility like the one approved in March over an open tent city, even if it took more time to construct. He also called for the Planning and Construction Council to begin work on a waste-water treatment facility for the detention center.
Wednesday’s meeting came as people across the world marked “World Refugee Day.”
According to figures from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) there are currently over 42 million forcibly displaced people in the world, with 4.3 million displaced in 2011. Of these 42 million, 10.4 million are recognized as refugees, and over a quarter of them are from Afghanistan alone. Of the world’s refugees, 80 percent are hosted in countries in the developing world, with Pakistan alone housing 1.7 million refugees, the most of any country on earth.
UNHCR figures state that 800,000 people were displaced as refugees across international borders in 2011, the most in a decade. The higher number can be linked in large part to the fighting that has gripped the Arab world over the past year, but also famine in eastern Africa.
World Refugee Day also falls on Eritrean Martyrs Day, a national holiday in Eritrea which commemorates the tens of thousands who died in the 30-year struggle with Ethiopia for independence. Eritreans make up the overwhelming majority of the African migrants in Israel, from 75-85 percent of the over 60,000 African migrants in Israel.
In Israel, the asylum-seeker newspaper The Refugee Voice published a special edition included as an insert in Haaretz newspaper in honor of World Refugee Day. The issue is the first edition of the paper released since anti-migrant violence began in south Tel Aviv in recent months, and the newspaper, printed in English, Arabic, Hebrew and Tigrinya, bears the front cover headline “5 years of neglect, 6 Molotov cocktails, one burnt apartment, 700 deported refugees, 60,000 people with no rights, Where do we go from here?”