Anti-Infiltration Bill Passes into Law

On 9 January 2012, the Israeli Knesset passed the “Anti-Infiltration Bill”. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has supported this bill in efforts to create new policies to deal with the large influx of immigrants crossing into Israel. The purpose of the bill is to deter the arrival of further asylum seekers and is arguably another measure to preserve the Jewish majority. ARDC considers that the new law is discriminatory in that it targets African asylum seekers escaping persecution.

The law passed the second and third readings in the plenum with a large majority: 37 Knesset members in favor and eight opposed. A similar proposal was dropped in July 2010 as a result of a strong public backlash and a request from the Ministry of Defence. However, as feared by refugee human rights organizations, it was quickly replaced by a revised bill which passed its first reading on 28 March 2011 without debate.

The bill fails to distinguish between asylum seekers, migrant workers and infiltrators. All non-citizens who do not enter through an official border crossing into Israel, will be deemed to be “infiltrators”. As such, the new law will make it possible for unauthorized immigrants, including asylum seekers, to be imprisoned without trial or deported.

The bill amends the Prevention of Infiltration Law of 1954, which was passed to prevent the entry of Palestinian terrorists during a state of emergency, however, was never lifted. It was considered emergency legislation that was enacted to address major threats to Israel’s security. The new bill, however, was expanded to effectively now include migrant workers or asylum seekers who enter Israel and do not necessarily pose a threat to Israel’s security.

Pursuant to the new law, Israeli authorities will be allowed to hold individuals who they deem to be “infiltrators” for more than three years in detention centers without any charge or trial. Previously, an individual could be held for up to 60 days as they were handled under the 1952 Law of Entry into Israel. As such, individuals who are not able to prove their refugee status immediately to Israeli authorities can be detained for an undetermined period of time.

Similarly, the period of detention before appearing before a judge has been extended from 96 hours to 14 days. Furthermore, the new law also states that individuals in Israel caught helping illegal immigrants who are involved in illegal activities could face prison sentences of five to fifteen years.

Possibly one of the most alarming introductions is that individuals from “enemy” states, such as Sudan, and their children, can be held for an indefinite period of time regardless of any genuine threat that such individuals may pose to Israel’s security.

In the case that asylum seekers are imprisoned, incorrectly labelled as infiltrators or migrant laborers, Israel will be acting in violation of the UN Convention for Refugees if they are deported. The Convention (Art 33) states that a refugee may not be removed to a place where his life or liberty would be at risk on the basis of his “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Israel was a founding signatory of the convention, and the new legislation passed by the Knesset puts its adherence to the convention in serious jeopardy.