New Bill Would Limit Confinement of Asylum Seekers at Holot

Maximum term in Holot detention center would be two years – down from indefinite – while daily roll calls would be cut from three to one.

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The Holot detention facility, September 2014.
The Holot detention facility, September 2014.Credit: AP

A new version of the amendment to the law on preventing illegal entry into Israel calls for limiting confinement to the Holot facility in the Negev to two years, according to recent discussions among government ministries. The amendment also reduces roll calls from the previous three times a day to once a day, in the evening.

The previous amendment, which was struck down by the High Court of Justice, had no limitations on confinement at Holot.

The High Court justices sharply criticized the frequent roll call policy that it makes it impossible to leave the facility, which is ostensibly open during the day. That was the only element of confinement at Holot that the justices ordered be changed immediately; two days later, the afternoon roll call was canceled.

The new amendment is not final due to objections to some provisions by the Justice Ministry. The latter warns that the law still has not taken to heart the High Court’s harsh criticism regarding the ongoing deprivation of liberty from asylum seekers who cannot be deported.

However, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar insists that Holot continue to operate according to its current practices and even wants to expand it. Sa’ar also refuses to significantly reduce the period of confinement.

Sa’ar is expected to distribute a preliminary version of the amendment in the coming days, just before he leaves office. On Monday morning he is to appear before the Knesset Interior Committee to present the amendment, which is supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In discussions among the various ministries and other authorities, various suggestions have been raised, including that asylum seekers would not be taken into custody, but rather that a large part of their salaries to be placed in a special fund and returned to them when they leave the country.

A suggestion has also been raised that a criminal law from 1954 be invoked that would subject asylum seekers to a five-year prison term.

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