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Israel wants new law dealing with Africa migrants

07 October 2014, 15:59

Jerusalem - Israeli ministers were meeting on Tuesday to discuss a new law to deal with illegal immigrants from Africa, after the High Court barred the government from detaining them without trial.

The discussion, between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the ministers of justice, the interior and public security, comes a day after a heated parliamentary debate which saw hardliners criticizing the court ruling.

"The court's decision... does not enable the state to deal with the phenomenon of infiltration," outgoing Interior Minister Gideon Saar said on Monday, using a term for African migrants widely used by Israeli politicians.

According to the September 22 ruling, Israel can no longer detain illegal migrants for up to a year without trial, with the court ordering the closure of the Holot detention centre within 90 days.

Around 2,000 African nationals are currently being held at the centre located in the southern Negev desert.

Read also: Another 100 migrants missing off Libya

A year ago, the High Court struck down a similar law allowing them to be held for up to three years without trial.

Government figures indicate there are some 48,000 Africans living illegally in Israel, most of them from Eritrea, where the regime has been repeatedly accused of widespread human rights abuses, and from conflict-torn Sudan.

Many of them are living in impoverished areas of southern Tel Aviv, where residents have frequently protested against their presence.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said while new legislation was necessary, it would not contradict the court's ruling, which protected the Africans' fundamental rights.

"Israel has a fundamental right to prevent the infiltration of work migrants through its borders, yet at the same time they will be treated only within the limitations set out by the court," Maya Bengal told AFP prior to the meeting.

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