Israeli government approves new bill to detain asylum seekers

Jerusalem: The Israeli government Sunday, unanimously voted in favour of a new bill, which allows authorities to detain asylum seekers for up to 20 months in an “open-prison”, official sources said.

The bill proposal, called “The Infiltration Prevention Act,” is the third formulation of the bill, the two previous versions having been struck down by the country’s Supreme Court, for the alleged infringement upon the migrants’ basic human rights, Xinhua reported.

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According to the bill, once asylum seekers enter Israel, they would be sent to a prison called Saharonim, and from there, they would be brought to the Holot detention centre in the southern Negev desert for a period of up to 20 months.

The Supreme Court, Sep 22 disqualified the government policy, which allowed the detention of illegal migrants for up to a year without trial.

In 2013, the Supreme Court had struck down the first formulation of the bill, which had allowed the authorities to lock migrants up for a period of up to three years without trial.

Following the approval of the government, the bill would be transferred, for discussion, to the Knesset (parliament) committee for Interior Affairs and then put to several rounds of voting in the Knesset plenum.

According to Israeli authorities, there are currently about 48,000 African migrants who had entered the country without permits across the Egypt-Israel border.

Most of them have from the war-torn African countries of South Sudan and Eritrea. About 2,000 illegal migrants are currently held at the Holot facility.

Israeli authorities consider the migrants to be a risk to the Jewish character of the state.

On the other hand, harsh measures taken against the migrants are criticised by left-wing protesters and activists.