JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s Knesset approved a bill that would allow authorities to arrest and hold illegal migrants for up to three years.
The bill passed on its second and third readings Monday night by a vote of 37 to 8. The bill also metes out a jail sentence of up to 15 years for anyone who assists illegal migrants, including providing them with housing, while they are in Israel.
The previous law allowed an illegal immigrant to be held for up to 60 days. The bill is an amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law of 1954, which was passed to prevent the entry of Palestinian terrorists.
An average of 1,200 illegal immigrants infiltrate into Israel from the Sinai desert each month.
Critics of the bill that passed Monday night say that holding illegal migrants for three years without trial or deportation is unconstitutional. The measure also has been called undemocratic and anti-human rights.
"This law is draconian and immoral, and its entire purpose is to deter refugees from entering Israel," the Association of Civil Rights in Israel said in a statement. "The law blatantly disregards Israel’s most basic commitments as a member of the community of nations and as a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The State of Israel has the right to protect its borders, but not by trampling human rights and ignoring democratic values."