Israeli cabinet backs bill to detain Africans in ‘open’ Negev facility

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted unanimously on Sunday to allocate NIS 440 million to deal with African asylum-seekers in the coming year, with most of the money going toward a new detention center in the Negev. The ministers likewise voted as one to support a bill coming to the Knesset on Tuesday that would effectively keep the illegal migrants inside the detention center around the clock, even though it is billed as an “open” facility.

Sudanese refugees protest in front of the government's offices in center Tel Aviv, against the plan to imprison refugees, October 14, 2012

Sudanese refugees protest in front of the government’s offices in center Tel Aviv, against the plan to imprison refugees, October 14, 2012

Most of the money approved will go to defray the cost of establishing and operating the Negev center, but some will also be spent on “increasing the personal safety” in south Tel Aviv, where many African migrants live. Some 550 new positions have been created to implement the program in the Public Security Ministry, the Population and Immigration Authority and the Economy Ministry.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said the new facility would not only infringe on the rights of the migrants, it would cost millions of shekels that will be taken from the funding of social programs. “Bottom line, even if they lock up 3,000 people in the new facility, what about the 50,000 who are now in the streets of south Tel Aviv and other poor areas?” he asked. Khenin said the government’s policy had to be reversed. “It’s time for an entirely new direction. To start treating the people who come from Africa seeking life as people, and as long as they cannot be returned to their countries of origin, to allow them to work in Israel instead of the foreign workers whom the state continues to bring in every year,” Khenin maintained.

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