Illegal immigrants.
Illegal immigrants. Yoni Kempinski

The Cabinet voted Sunday in favor of a new law that would allow police to jail illegal migrants for up to 12 months in special detention facilities.

The new law follows the cancellation of a previous law that allowed illegal migrants to be held for up to three years. That law was overturned by the High Court as unconstitutional.

The law was submitted by Minister of the Interior Gideon Saar, with the goal of giving the Israel Police new tools to fight illegal migration. During the debate, he gave examples of steps that other Western countries are taking to fight illegal migration.

“The proposal that I put before the government today, and which I will bring before Knesset next week, was made necessary by the High Court’s verdict,” Saar explained Sunday. “We need new tools to deal with the issue of illegal migration to Israeli territory.”

“What is good for Australia – which is surrounded on all sides by the ocean – is, all the more so, good for Israel, which is the only Western country to share a land border with Africa,” he argued.

Israel must respect human rights, but must also protect its own future, he added. “Democracy isn’t a prescription for suicide, and human rights are not a platform for national obliteration,” he said.

Illegal entry to Israel from Africa has dropped by 99% since early 2012. In that time, Israel built a security barrier along its border with Egypt. In addition, the Sinai Peninsula, through which Bedouin smugglers brought citizens of various African and other countries to Israel, became the scene of a bloody ongoing battle between the Egyptian military and local crime gangs and terrorist groups.

Illegal entrants continue to enter Israel from Palestinian Authority-controlled regions of Judea and Samaria, and the government has also struggled to deal with the problem of foreign workers who overstay their visas.