New Israeli law punishes African refugees

The legislation states that African asylum seekers--a group the government refers to as "infiltrators"-- will be held for three years. Because Sudanese come from an "enemy country," they could be subject to indefinite imprisonment. The law will apply to men, women, and children, including unaccompanied minors--children entering the country alone.

African refugees were already subject to imprisonment without trial before the Knesset passed this legislation. But local human rights groups and left-wing politicians seem particularly concerned about the formalization of this practice, decrying it as undemocratic and as a violation of Israel's obligations as a signatory to various human rights conventions.
Israel is home to approximately 30,000-45,000 Africans, 90 percent of which have fled Eritrea and Sudan. A tremendous majority enter the country via its porous southern border with Egypt. Sudanese have fled civil war and genocide; Eritrea is gripped by a brutal dictatorship that enlists its citizens in compulsory national service. Eritreans are not paid for this service and are sometimes forced to work in construction, a situation interviewees liken to "forced labor." Eritrean army defectors face abuse and torture in their home countries.
While Israel does not deport African asylum seekers--tacitly recognizing their refugee status--it does not formally recognize them as refugees. Israel does not process asylum seekers' requests and, since its founding in 1948, has given status to less than 200 refugees. Israel does not grant African asylum seekers work visas, leaving the group ripe for labor exploitation. Refugees have reported that employers sometimes refuse to pay their wages.
The new legislation is an update to the1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law--which was originally created to keep Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes inside the newly created state of Israel.
Israel is also currently building an open-air detention center that is expected to hold as many as 11,000 refugees, a facility some have likened to a concentration
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