Migrants in custory, December 9, 2011
A migrant held at the Saharonim detention facility in the Negev. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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The open facility for migrants from Africa will initially accept men only, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said on Monday at a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee. According to Sa’ar, the new facility is not intended for families because at this stage there is no intention to require women and children to live there.

A confidential opinion by the Public Security Ministry’s legal adviser has warned that the new amendment to the law against illegal entry into Israel, which makes it possible to incarcerate illegal migrants for a year without trial and regulates the establishment of the open detention center, might not pass muster with the High Court of Justice.

The Knesset committee is now discussing the clauses of the amendment at a faster pace, to enable the Knesset to vote on its second and third readings today. The new detention center is expected to go into operation in about two weeks.

For the past 18 months, women and children have been held in jail, in keeping with an amendment to the law preventing illegal entry into Israel that was struck down by the High Court of Justice two-and-a-half months ago. About six month ago, the Be’er Sheva District court ruled that a child’s status as a minor constituted a special humanitarian reason for release from custody. Court president Judge Joseph Elon granted the appeal of the Hotline for Migrant Workers and ordered the release from jail of an Eritrean citizen and her two daughters, aged 8 and 11. A week later, the state released nine more Eritrean women with their 10 children, aged 18 months to 7 years old.

Meanwhile, Be’er Sheva mayor Rubik Danilovich said on Monday that his city will not allow implementation of a plan for frequent buses between the city and the new open facility in the Negev.

Responding to statements by a representative of the Transportation Ministry at the Knesset Interior Committee meeting on Monday, Danilovich said he was surprised to learn of the plan from the media.

The Transportation Ministry official, Dror Ganon, told the committee that the ministry would allocate NIS 6 million to operate 16 buses a day from the detention facility to Be’er Sheva and back.

Danilovich said that he had inquired about the plan with the interior minister, the transportation minister and the chairman of the Interior Committee and was told that “nothing was known of this.” He accused the officials of making “a reckless statement.”

In terms of the plan approved by the cabinet last week to deal with illegal immigration, the Finance Ministry will allocate an annual NIS 6 million to the Transportation Ministry to beef up public transportation from the detention facility to various destinations. However, the plan does not name the destinations or the frequency of the buses.

The facility can hold up to 3,300 people, who will be allowed to leave the facility between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M. daily. However, they will have to check in three times a day and will not be allowed to work.

Danilovich said he intended to meet with the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office later this week to discuss the matter.