New law allows Israel to jail migrants for up to 3 years without trial

12:00 Jun 3 2012 Israel

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israel amended an immigration law on Sunday which will grant authorities the power to imprison asylum seekers for up to three years, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

The amended version of a 1954 law, entitled Prevention of Infiltration, will make asylum seekers liable to imprisonment without trial or deportation.

Anyone caught helping migrants could also face a potential prison sentence of five to 15 years, Haaretz reported.

Migrants in Israel will also be more susceptible to imprisonment for minor infractions such as petty theft or graffiti.

The Saharonim detention center in southern Israel is usually the first port of call for migrants caught entering Israel from Egypt. The detention center is currently being expanded from a 2,000 person capacity to 5,400.

Israeli rights group Hotline for Migrant Workers slammed the new law, saying the state of Israel saw the "imprisonment of thousands of people, women and children" as a solution instead of granting refugee status to those who are eligible.

The new law is neither "humane nor effective," the group said.

Immigration to Israel is a controversial issue in a country which seeks to maintain a Jewish majority.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Thursday that "more prisons and migrant detention camps" were the solution to the problem, Maariv reported.

Israel must "prepare more military bases where we can jail all of them without exception," he added, saying that together with Palestinians, migrants threaten the Zionist dream.

Fleeing poverty, fighting and authoritarian rule, some 60,000 Africans have crossed illegally into Israel through the relatively porous desert border with Egypt in recent years.
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