Planning council paves way for detention facility for migrants
Thousands to be housed in tents without basic sanitation, warns lone dissenter.
The construction of a detention facility in the south to house migrant workers moved one step closer on Tuesday when a national planning council voted overwhelmingly to approve changes to the National Master Plan. However, the one dissenter - the head of the local council where the facility is to be built - warned that the plan would result in slum-like tent cities in the Negev that would be around for decades.
The National Planning and Building Council passed the proposed changes by 19 to 1, and also voted to waive local building permits for the planned tent cities for migrants.
Shmulik Rifman, chairman of the Ramat Negev Regional Council where the facility is to be built, said it would be "a significant blow to the value of human life and to basic human rights," and the consequences would be felt for generations. "The government's intention is to put thousands of infiltrators into tents in the Negev, without basic sanitation, without sewerage, without electricity," Rifman said.
Defense Ministry officials have emphasized that the tent cities are only a temporary solution, but Rifman dismissed these statements. "What's temporary today will still be here in another 20 and 30 years," he said.
A ministry official said the purpose of the amendments was to allow it "to meet the tight schedule to implement the cabinet resolution" approving the construction of detention facilities for African migrants crossing the Egyptian border into Israel illegally.
The goal was for anyone who crossed the border into Israel illegally to be taken directly to a detention facility, before they had a chance to reach a city, Defense Ministry Deputy Director General Bezalel Treiber told the council, explaining the purpose of the plan, as set out by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Each migrant will have 4 square meters of living space, in both the tents and the permanent facilities, said a ministry official. In addition, the ministry has promised to comply with national master plans directives that stipulate that each square meter of living space must be matched with an equal allocation of public buildings. The permit for the plan also stipulates that the tent compounds are to be in use for no more than two and a half years.
With regard to the sewerage issue, Defense Ministry officials said they will coordinate a solution together with the Ramat Negev Regional Council. They added that the region's existing sewage treatment facilities (the oxidation pools at Ketziot ) will be expanded and a new permanent treatment facility will be built.
"The detention centers are an immediate need which cannot be postponed," the ministry said in a statement. The sewerage plan that was approved by [the National Planning and Building] Council was drawn up in coordination with the Ministry of Health, and it provides a temporary solution," the Defense Ministry said.