Israel’s Supreme Court limits illegal migrants’ detention to 12 months

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that illegal migrants can only be held in a Negev detention facility for 12 months while a law is revised.

The provision in the current “anti-infiltration law” allowing the migrants to be held for up to 20 months at the Holot detention center is “disproportionate,” the court said.

The Knesset has six months to revise the law, which passed its final readings in December.

Several Israeli nongovernmental organizations have petitioned against the law.

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Under the measure, an amendment to an existing infiltration law, illegal migrants can be held in closed detention centers for three months and then kept at the Holot open detention center in the Negev for up to 20 months, where they will be required to be present at a head count once a day rather than three times.

In September, the Supreme Court ordered the state to close the Holot center and struck down the section of the amendment that allows the illegal migrants to be held in closed detention for one year.

Had the new law not been passed before the Knesset dissolved, the court would have required the freeing of all 2,500 migrants being held at in Holot.

More than 40,000 Eritreans and Sudanese are in Israel, most illegally.

Prior to the court’s announcement of its decision, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that invalidating the existing legislation would be a “declaration that south Tel Aviv is the official facility for accommodating infiltrators.”

Following the decision, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the court “has accepted in principle the state’s position, according to which the illegal influx of labor migrants is unacceptable and that they may be held in order to achieve the necessary deterrence. The ruling will be studied and the state will act to implement it.”

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