Israel govt backs new law against illegal immigrants

The Israeli government on Sunday approved new draft legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration after judges quashed an earlier law as repressive, the interior ministry said.

Jerusalem: The Israeli government on Sunday approved new draft legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration after judges quashed an earlier law as repressive, the interior ministry said.

The bill, which was unanimously approved by the cabinet, must now pass three votes in the parliament, or Knesset, before passing into law.

But rights groups denounced the move, saying it made a mockery of the High Court's decision and would only offer an interim solution to the question of how to deal with asylum seekers and other illegal immigrants.

The new bill determines that anyone entering Israel illegally can be held in Saharonim detention centre for up to three months, after which he or she will be moved to another detention facility called Holot for a period of up to 20 months. Both facilities are deep in the southern Negev desert.

It also lays out stiffer penalties for those employing "infiltrators" - a government term for illegal migrants, most of them Africans who slipped across the border from Egypt.

On September 22, the High Court struck down a law which allowed the government to detain illegal migrants for up to a year without trial.

It also ordered the closure of Holot detention centre within 90 days. There are around 2,000 African detainees currently being held there out of an estimated 48,000 currently living in Israel.

Exactly a year earlier, the court blocked a similar law allowing migrants to be held for up to three years without trial. 

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