Knesset Modifies Illegal Migrant Detention Law

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

The Knesset has approved legislation to modify Israel’s policy of extended detention without charge for illegal migrants, lowering the maximum detention period from three years to two.

The High Court struck down the previous, more stringent detention law in September.

The new regulations, which opponents predicted would also be challenged in the Court, enables authorities to send migrants, now living illegally in Israeli cities, to what the government describes as “open facilities.”

The first such complex, which can hold several hundred people, is due to begin operating this week at a location in the Negev.

Migrants detained there will be able to leave the facility during the day but must return at night, and they will not be allowed to seek employment. Women, children and families will not, at this stage, be sent to the complex, which the law stipulates must provide health care and social services.

“This law is needed in order to deter potential infiltrators. The present reality is a human ticking timebomb,” coalition lawmaker Miri Regev, head of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, told parliament.

Since the Supreme Court ruling in September, some 700 of the 1,700 migrants under detention have been released from a prison in southern Israel, officials said. The rest are to be transferred to the new “open facility” this week, the Prisons Authority said.

There are currently an estimated 50,000 mainly Sudanese and Eritrean nationals residing in the country without permission.