Saharonim Prison - Eliyahu Hershkovitz - June 2012
Saharonim Prison Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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Hadar Cohen
Sudanese father and son refugees in Tel Aviv. Photo by Hadar Cohen
Eliyahu Hershkovitz
The refugee tent city being built in Nahal Raviv. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The detention compound being built in the south for African migrants will accommodate up to 30,000 people, despite Defense Ministry statements that it would house 12,400, an Interior Ministry protocol shows.

At a discussion held by Interior Ministry officials last month about the sewer treatment facility at the detention site, officials explained that the professional water and sewage committee had received a plan for a "compound housing up to 30,000 people."

The sewer treatment facility is also to serve other communities in the region. The Defense Ministry had stated during the detention center's planning process that it would accommodate more than 20,000 people. In June, the National Planning and Construction Committee was informed that by the middle of next year the state would have accommodation for 16,400 migrants in the detention center.

According to plans presented by Defense Ministry officials, the existing Saharonim A and Ketziot prisons have room for 4,400 migrants and the soon-to- be-completed tent town would add 4,000 places.

The first stage of the permanent detention center, due to be completed by the end of the year, will accommodate 3,000 migrants and the completion of Saharonim's second stage, due in December, will house 1,000 more migrants. By mid 2013, the center is expected to have room for 16,400 migrants. When the authorities approved changing the sewer-treatment facility's location for the migrants center in Ketziot, they demanded that it be distanced at least 500 meters from the migrants' residential areas and that the treated sewage water's quality be improved.

The Defense Ministry said: "The sewage planner for Ramat Negev Regional Council and the detention center believes that after expanding the sewage infrastructures, they will be able to serve up to 30,000 people. The ministry is acting only on the plan approved by the cabinet, i.e. preparing only 12,400 places."

The High Court of Justice denied on Thursday a petition filed by the civil rights group Bimkom Planners for Planning Rights against the project's exemption from certain planning regulations. The court also denied the NGO's request for an injunction to stop the work.

Nir Shalev of Bimkom contended the planned tent town and detention facilities would create "awful living conditions. I hope the Knesset or the courts will grasp this and stop the imminent humanitarian disaster."

He said the combination of the drop in the number of migrants and the large number of available beds at existing facilities makes the entire project unnecessary.

Read this article in Hebrew