As of next week, the police will be able to turn over African migrants suspected of criminal acts to the Immigration Authority. The authority will decide whether to detain them for an extended period. The decision will be based on discretion and without a legal process. This is part of a process "developed with the Israel Police and authorized by the Justice Ministry," as the Interior Ministry's Immigration Authority phrases it.
This move has far-reaching significance. African migrants are likely to stay in prison for extended periods only because they are African migrants. This is because the criterion is "suspicion of criminal acts," not "having been convicted of criminal acts."
It seems the accepted judicial process in a democratic country - which includes arrest, an indictment and a trial - has become superfluous in everything relating to African migrants. The aim of expelling as many as possible to their countries of origin justifies the means - even if the means contradict the democratic infrastructure on which the state is supposed to be based. Of course, when it comes to an Israeli citizen, suspicion of criminal acts does not justify imprisonment, certainly not for an extended period.
The source of this distortion lies in the draconian amendment to the law for preventing illegal migration. The amendment, which passed in the Knesset by a big majority in January, gives the authorities extensive powers to take action against African migrants.
Based on this amendment, African migrants can be held for three years without being convicted or sentenced to imprisonment. The opening provided by the broad term "suspicion of criminal acts" can create a situation in which any African migrant who resists arrest is likely to pay by remaining in prison for a long time.
Work is currently under way to build a detention facility in the Negev to house 4,000 African migrants. On its way to populating the facility, Israel is trampling human rights.
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