Bill to Limit Asylum Seekers' Detention Passes Initial Knesset Vote

Knesset plenary session on path to approve bill which shortens legal detention at the Holot facility to one year.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Asylum seekers protest at Holot detention center in Negev, February 17, 2104.
Asylum seekers protest at Holot detention center in Negev, February 17, 2104.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A bill shortening the legal detainment of asylum seekers in the Holot facility of southern Israel to one year passed an initial vote early Tuesday morning with 20 in favor and 12 against in a plenary Knesset session.

The new bill is the result of the Supreme Court's decision to repeal the current law that allows for 20 months' detainment.

The Knesset must pass the bill in two more votes within one week, before the expiration of the current law, which would prevent further use of Holot for the detainment of asylum seekers.

Mk Michal Rozin (Meretz), who previously served as head of the Committee on Foreign Workers, sharply condemned the government's decision to push for the new bill.

"Every time you present a bill on the subject, the Supreme Court tells you to look at the essence and not on the technical matter of a number of months," said Rozin. "No country imprisons refugees who reach it. The situation at Holot is unacceptable."

Meretz Chair Zehava Galon also condemned the bill as a "humanitarian crime and moral disgrace."

Most of those detained in Holot are African's who made it to Israel either as political refugees or economic migrants seeking financial opportunity.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan presented the text of the bill in place of Interior Minister Aryeh Dery who originally drafted the new bill. Dery stormed out of the Knesset session before the vote in anger over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apparent attempts to take credit for two other initiatives pushed by Dery.

On Monday, Netanyahu posted to his twitter account that the cost of public transit had been reduced by 14%, an initiative originally launched by Dery. Netanyahu's post however, didn't mention the interior minister and took credit for the initiative by saying "we".

On Sunday, Dery's name was also omitted in an announcement by Netanyahu on developments in an initiative that Dery had pushed during his time as minister of the economy.

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