Photo by Haggai Matar
Yesterday (9 January 2012), late at night, the Knesset plenum has passed the “Law to Prevent Infiltration” in its final reading, and it will now be enacted as a law. This law, sponsored by the government, comes after the government had to drop a similar proposal in July 2010, due to harsh public criticism.
This is an amendment to the existing Law to Prevent Infiltration, which was passed in 1954 and was originally limited to a state of emergency and intended for dealing with “Fedayeen.” The declared purpose of this newly enacted amendment is to deter asylum seekers and refugees, who have been entering Israel in recent years, by using draconian arrest measures. This law enables a three-year imprisonment without trial of asylum seekers and refugees and of their children, even if there is no possibility or intention of deporting them. In some cases, the imprisonment could be extended and even indefinite. The law further stipulates that judicial oversight of the arrest will only take place after 14 days; it will be preformed by an administrative court; and this administrative court will not be able to release arrested refugees before the three-year sentence except under extraordinary humanitarian circumstances.
The previous version of this bill stipulated that a refugee or asylum seeker found guilty of property damage – including minor offenses such as bicycle theft or graffiti – could receive a life sentence; furthermore, the previous version of this bill set a five year prison sentence on those who offer any form of aid to refugees – and even fifteen years should a person persists in offering aid after being prosecuted.
In the final version of the law, the articles relating to criminal offenses and to aiding refugees were somewhat “softened,” in the sense that they now relate only to persons who entered Israel without a permit and were caught carrying weapons or trafficking in human beings or drugs. This, despite the fact that the government pushed for this law to relate to all aid to refugees.
However, even in its new version, this law is draconian and immoral, and its entire purpose is to deter refugees from entering Israel. 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.
To read ACRI’s position on this bill (in its previous version), click here.