Saharonim Prison - Eliyahu Hershkovitz - June 2012
Saharonim Prison Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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The Israel Prison Service is recruiting workers for detention facilities in the south designated for holding African migrants.

The prison service began posting ads a few weeks ago seeking prison guards as well as other staff members, including doctors, cooks, educators and social workers.

"The Israel Prison Service is preparing for the recruitment of personnel ... to prison facilities in the south, including detention facilities for infiltrators," the prison service said in a statement.

There are expected to be about 400 personnel staffing the detention facilities, according to prison service plans. The guards and other prison service officials will live in a separate complex and sleep in converted shipping containers. The migrants will be assigned to permanent housing, converted shipping containers or tents.

The prison authority is also short on staff in two jails in the south, the Ketziot and Saharonim prisons, both of which will also be the site of three of the five planned Negev detention facilities for migrants. Construction at Saharonim is slated to be completed by November, at which point two facilities there are expected to hold some 1,200 migrants.

The other two facilities being planned are the Nahal Raviv tent city and a facility called Sadot. At this point, there is space for 2,000 people in Nahal Raviv, half the amount slated for that compound.

Israeli authorities have yet to decide whether to lay the groundwork for the remainder, due to a drop in the rate of illegal immigration via the Egypt-Israel border. Knowledgeable sources said construction has been suspended and will not begin unless there is a need.

The Israel Prison Service's recruitment drive appears set to make it easier for the prison service to train new staff members before the Nahal Raviv tent city begins operating. It will be surrounded by three fences and two guard towers.

Meanwhile, authorities are continuing construction work on Sadot, which will ultimately be able to hold 8,000 people. Altogether, once completed, the five compounds - which will be connected to water, electricity and sewage infrastructure - will be able to accommodate 30,000 people. However, a document drafted by the Ramat Hanegev regional council argues that the drop in the number of illegal African immigrants indicates that there is already enough room for all the detainees in existing prisons.

Under the final plan, all detained migrants will ultimately be moved to Sadot and Saharonim, if there is enough room in those two facilities.

In June and July of last year, about 3,000 migrants entered Israel illegally. That number dropped to about 1,300 for the same two months of this year, according to a report that is based on data from the Interior Ministry's Population, Immigration and Border Authority.

An analysis of the type of personnel being sought by the prison service indicates that the detention facilities will be staffed by drivers who bring the migrants to the compounds and by guards who must be in good physical condition and have completed an officers' course in the army.

Yanir Yagna contributed to this report.