Israel adopts new measures against African migrants

The Israeli cabinet approved Sunday measures aimed at deporting thousands of Africans who illegally entered the country and who are perceived by it as a threat to its Jewish character.

A statement from the prime minister's office said that beyond the measures, which include a crackdown on employers and financial incentives for home-bound Africans, the interior ministry has drafted a bill that would enable to detain illegal migrants for one year without trial.

The new bill, which will be brought before parliament on Monday for an initial hearing and vote, was formulated after a previous law from 2012 allowing the three-year detainment without trial of illegals was overturned by Israel's supreme court in September.

According to the statement, a "closed facility" will serve as detention centre for migrants who manage to enter the Jewish state, which has nearly finished the construction of a fence along its southern border, as well as for those already in Israel "who disturb public order".

"The new decisions include combined actions designed to encourage illegal migrants to leave Israel and return to their countries of origin, increase personal security for residents of Israel and reduce the presence of migrants in city centres," the premier's office said.

According to the plan, law enforcement teams dealing with African migrants will be increased by 550 new officers who will enforce laws prohibiting their employment.

In addition, grants to "illegal migrants who leave Israel" will increase from $1,500 to $3,500, the statement read.

"We are determined to deport the tens of thousands of illegal migrants who are here after having reduced to zero the number of illegal labour migrants who enter Israel's cities," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the statement.

"The steps that we unanimously approved today are proportionate and necessary for maintaining the Jewish and democratic character of the state," he said.

Human rights groups say that the majority of the African migrants in Israel cannot be deported because of threats to their lives in their homelands of Sudan and Eritrea.

In 2012, Israel launched a crackdown on what it said were 60,000 illegal immigrants from Africa, rounding up and deporting 3,920 by the end of the year, and building a high-tech fence along the border with Egypt.