Prisons Service Opposes State Plan for Open Detention Centers

Preliminary plans are to force migrants to spend the night in the facilities, and to allow them to leave at certain times, including for work.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

The Israel Prisons Service objects to operating open detention centers for African migrants, as the state had planned.

A month after the High Court of Justice invalidated the amendment to the Anti-Infiltration Law that allowed detaining illegal migrants for three years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to discuss alternative detention solutions.

MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) revealed Tuesday that the state intends to establish "open detention centers" for illegal immigrants from Africa.

Preliminary plans are to force the migrants to spend the night in the facilities, and to allow them to leave at certain times, including for work.

The prisons service objects to running facilities in such a manner, and it is not clear who would operate them, where they would be located and what restrictions would be placed on the detainees.

Shaked told the Knesset committee on foreign workers yesterday that the state intended to set up such open detention centers for the illegal immigrants.

The state already has a partially completed detention center in the Negev. The first stage of the Sadot facility has already been completed and has room for 3,300 people in shipping containers that have been converted into housing, including an air conditioner, toilets and showers. The Sadot facility was designed to hold 11,000, but only the first stage has been completed after the number of illegal migrants entering Israel fell to almost nothing after the border fence with Egypt was built.

The Sadot facility has stood empty since it was built by the Defense Ministry, as was a separate tent camp for detainees, which was completed and later dismantled. The ministry guards the camp, but has yet to find a use for it. The ministry told Haaretz it has not held any discussions about using the facility as an open detention center for migrants, since it was built as a "closed facility and was to have public buildings such as health clinics and schools - as well as a fence surrounding it. One possibility under discussion is to use the Sadot facility as an army base for basic training, though this violates the national master plan for use of the site.

The Defense Ministry stated the Sadot Detention Center was established based on a cabinet decision with a designated budget of NIS 250 million, outside of the regular defense budget, and has room for 3,300 people. As to the use of the facility by military units, the ministry said in principle it does not report on internal discussions to the press.

The Israel Prisons Service declined to comment on this report.

Migrants at the Saharonim prison facility in 2012.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz