[QODLink]
Middle East
Israel to jail illegal migrants
Illegal immigrants may be jailed for up to three years under new law aimed at stemming flow of Africans entering Israel.
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2012 23:39
Controversial immigration law aimed at stemming flow of African migrants into Israel has gone into effect [Reuters]

Israel may jail illegal immigrants for up to three years under a new law, an Interior Ministry official has said.

The controversial law, which was was put into effect on Sunday, was passed by parliament in January.

The law, which aims at stemming the flow of Africans entering Israel across its desert border with Egypt, was initially denounced by liberal politicians and human rights activists .

"The law takes effect from today," said Sabine Haddad, the Interior Ministry spokeswoman.

Haddad noted that Israeli leaders had said they would try to reduce an influx they view as a threat to Israel's
Jewish character, and quoted Interior Minister Eli Yishai as saying last month he wanted to jail or deport illegal
immigrants.

Tens of thousands of migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, have arrived in Israel in the past three years, and
the pace has picked up to about 2,000 a month since December, for a total of 60,000 since the influx began.

Many migrants say they are fleeing persecution or war, but few have been granted formal asylum or refugee status,
leaving many with temporary visas, subsisting on wages from menial jobs, swelling the ranks of the poor.

"The problem of the infiltrators must be solved and we will solve it," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last
month, in remarks aimed at calming protests against migrants in Tel Aviv.

'Demographic threat'

Yishai, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, told the newspaper Maariv on Friday he saw the African arrivals, many of
whom are Muslims or Christians, as a demographic threat.

"The infiltrators along with the Palestinians will quickly bring us to the end of the Zionist dream," Yishai said,
adding that Israel had its own health and welfare issues.

"We don't need to import more problems from Africa.

"Most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn't belong to us, the white man," Yishai
said.

Aryeh Eldad, a right-wing legislator, urged Israel to order its troops to open fire on any infiltrators who penetrated
its borders, rather than only at those suspected of being armed.

Dov Henin, a left-wing legislator, said the measures Israel was taking against the migrants were "immoral", echoing
the opinions of Israelis who feel that Jews, often victims of persecution in the past, should show compassion to the
migrants.

Some Israelis wondered if jails near the Egyptian border could accommodate all the migrants flowing in.

Israeli media reports said the detention facilities already used to hold thousands of migrants for a number of weeks
after crossing the border before they were freed, were not large enough to accommodate more than about 5,000.

Israel has not yet completed a larger facility whose construction was approved late last year, when $167m was
earmarked for it and for a fence being erected along the Egyptian border to block migrants from infiltrating from Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

490

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
More than 400 gaming dens operate on native lands, but critics say social ills and inequality stack the deck.
The Palestinian president is expected to address the UN with a new proposal for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Nearly 1,200 aboriginal females have been killed or disappeared over 30 years with little justice served, critics say.
Ethnic violence has wracked China's restive Xinjiang region, leading to a tight government clampdown.
Malay artists revitalise the art of puppeteering by fusing tradition with modern characters such as Darth Vader.