Interior Ministry Moves Ahead on Migrant Detentions

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

Israeli authorities have begun ordering hundreds of African migrants to report to a new detention center in the Negev, while it seeks to find them a place to settle and offers incentives to leave, an official said Wednesday.

Daniel Solomon, a legal adviser for Israel’s Interior Ministry, said Wednesday that several hundred migrants are expected in the new Holot facility by the end of the month, with the number to reach 3,500 by the end of February. The migrants will remain there while Israel processes asylum requests and searches for other countries to take them in.

The move is Israel’s latest step to cope with an influx of some 50,000 illegal African migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, who have infiltrated into Israel in recent years.

Solomon said that no one would be deported, but the migrants would be given incentives to leave. Holot is meant to be an “open” facility, where residents can come and go. But they must sign into the facility several times a day and sleep there.

“All their needs will be taken care of,” he said. “The idea being basically taking them off the job market, they are not allowed to work outside the facility, even though they are free to come and go.”

He said Israel would move to quickly process requests for refugee status by Holot residents. He also said Israel has offered Africans grants of several thousand dollars to leave, and worked out a deal with a third country in Africa to take in the migrants. He declined to identify the third country or say what Israel had offered in return, but said he expected it to begin taking in migrants in the near future.

Several thousand Africans demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on Wednesday demanding asylum and the right to work.