MK Ofir Akunis
MK Ofir Akunis Photo by Michal Fattal
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The Knesset on Wednesday passed the first reading of a bill to impose harsher punishments on individuals who employ, harbor, or assist illegal migrants.

If the new bill passes the two remaining readings and becomes a law, a sentence of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to NIS five million could be imposed.
Likud MK Ofir Akunis, who drafted the bill, hailed the vote.

"The issue of infiltrators has become a strategic threat on Israeli society, turning the lives of many Israelis intolerable," he said. "The new law would limit the migrants' main incentive to come to Israel: employment."

Hadash MK Dov Hanin, meanwhile, harshly criticized the bill.

"This law is a bad law. In southern Tel Aviv and other places where those seeking life reside, they and the residents of the neighborhoods are plagued with real hardship. But these hardships need to be alleviated by real solutions."

The bill is only one in a line of bills put forward by the Knesset to stem the tide of African migrants entering Israel illegally. Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry presented an amendment under which migrants that are denied residency in Israel would be forced to leave the country before appealing the government's decision to deport them.

Earlier this month, the Justice Ministry proposed an amendment to a bill that would prohibit African migrants from transferring money abroad to their families.

In addition to legal action, the government is also establishing a tent city, called Nahal Raviv Habitation Center by the Ministry of Defense, which will ultimately host some 4,000 migrants from Africa, a number comparable to the total number of residents in the Ramat Hanegev regional council, where the tent city is located.