MKs Pushing to Have Migrants Detained, This Time for 1.5 Years

Right-wing Knesset member says the government plans to build 'open camps'; remarks come a month after High Court strikes down three-year detention for migrants.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Lawmakers are crafting a bill to let the state detain illegal migrants for up to a year and half, an MK said Tuesday, one month after legislation allowing for three years of detention was struck down by the High Court of Justice.

The government also plans to build camps for migrants, who could come and go as they please, MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) told Haaretz.

“Of course we need open camps; this should have been done before without any connection to the High Court ruling,” Shaked said. “It’s time to build open camps, which would basically remove the infiltrators from the neighborhoods,” she said, speaking after a meeting of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers.

A Justice Ministry spokesman declined to comment, saying any plans had to be approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last month the High Court unanimously stuck down the law allowing for three years of detention and set a 90-day deadline for detainees to be released. Around 1,800 Africans are still in detention; only two have been freed since the ruling.

Shaked, a senior MK of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party, said that personally she felt that legislation for two years of detention was warranted, although the bill would be for one and a half years.

'The government's non-policy is unacceptable'

Also Tuesday, following a request by MK Michal Rosin (Meretz), the Population, Immigration and Border Authority published data on asylum requests. The authority said that out of 2,593 requests, only four asylum seekers were granted refugee status between January and August this year. Only 98 requests were dismissed immediately, and 2,698 in-depth interviews were carried out, including requests from earlier years.

“This is a dramatic moment for asylum seekers in Israel because important decisions will be made in the near future,” said Rosin, an opposition MK who chairs the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers.

“The High Court determined clearly that the government’s non-policy isn’t acceptable and must stop, and that the authorities must free all those illegally detained, but the relevant authorities have failed to provide clear answers on their actions since the ruling. It could be that some are not very eager to ease the distress of asylum seekers in Israel.”

From July 2009 to August 2013, 17,194 asylum requests were submitted, but only 26 were granted, or 0.15 percent. Sudanese citizens accounted for 13 percent of requests, while Nigerians and Filipinos accounted for 10 percent each. The rest, in descending order, came from citizens of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Georgia, China, India and Nepal.

The Immigration Authority added that since the latest Prevention of Infiltration Law went into effect in June 2012, 1,654 asylum requests have been submitted by detainees. Of these, 53 were dismissed immediately and none were approved.

The requests are examined by the authority, before being processed by the Interior Ministry’s advising committee on refugees. From the beginning of the year until the end of August, the committee met 19 times and discussed 80 requests.

According to the Immigration Authority, in the first eight months of this year, some 1,897 migrants left Israel - 1,124 Sudanese, 202 Chinese, 106 Eritreans as well as citizens of Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Moldova, Ghana and Georgia. Of these, 864 left Israel directly from the Saharonim detention center in the Negev.

Archive photo of African migrants held at Saharonim detention center. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz