Israel passes draconian law on illegal immigrants

Donald Macintyre
Wednesday 11 January 2012 01:00
Comments

Israel's parliament approved harsh new penalties on illegal immigrants yesterday in an effort to stop mainly sub-Saharan Africans seeking refuge from conflict and poverty.

Although the law stopped short of enacting some of the most draconian penalties sought by the government, it has provoked widespread criticism from human rights groups. The law allows the state to imprison illegal migrants for life if they commit certain crimes and detain them and their children for three year terms simply for being caught entering Israel.

Nitzan Horowitz, a parliamentarian, called the new law a "stain" on Israel's legal code. And the retired judge Boaz Okon, the legal affairs analyst of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, called the law "unlimited licence to employ terror against anyone who reaches Israel."

The government estimates 50,000 Africans have illegally entered Israel through its border with the Egyptian Sinai desert since 2005.

While Israeli officials have argued that the majority are economic migrants seeking a better standard of living, advocacy groups contend many are genuine refugees who face retribution if forced to return home.

The issue has proved politically sensitive, with liberals arguing that Israel has a special obligation to adopt a lenient attitude to migrants because of the Jewish history of persecution in Europe and elsewhere

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel labelled the law "draconian and immoral". "Its entire purpose is to deter refugees from entering Israel," it said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in