The chairman of the Ramat Negev Regional Council, Shmuel Rifman, vehemently came out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to construct a large detention center for African infiltrators in the south. Netanyahu is to present the plan for construction of the facility, to house 10,000 infiltrators, to the cabinet Sunday for a vote. The facility is expected to be ready within six months of the vote. However, leaders in the south are vehemently opposed to the construction of the center.
"The existing infrastructure will not bear another 10,000 residents in a facility, and the significance of an open facility is not clear to us as a local authority. We do not know what the implications will be on water, health and transportation on the population of the Negev," Rifman, who also heads the organization of regional councils, wrote Netanyahu.
Rifman also wrote that the Ramat Negev Regional Council would not permit the establishment of such a center. The mayor of Dimona, Meir Cohen, called on the heads of the local authorities in the Negev to strongly oppose the construction of the facility. Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the border with Egypt Sunday to observe first-hand the beginning of construction of a border fence, which began this week. "The idea came up a number of times in the past and is known from other countries. But to put people in something that recalls camps is a sensitive idea that there was great concern over how it would be accepted here," an official involved in the plan said. "Thousands of people are coming in every month and pragmatic steps must be taken as long as there are assurances no one will get hurt."
The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner's representative in Israel, William Tall, said the UN body was familiar with the government's plan to build the facility only in general terms and were looking forward to further information on how it would work before weighing in. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Hotline for Migrant Workers yesterday made an urgent appeal to the prime minister after his bureau announced the plan, saying that Israel continues to breach its obligations to asylum-seekers.
"This is another and very shocking level of continuing disregard by the government of Israel for its moral and legal obligations both to refugees and asylum seekers and to children - both groups of which receive the greatest protection in international law, law in various countries and in Israeli law," wrote attorneys Oded Feller and Osnat Cohen-Lifshitz, lawyers for the two organizations wrote.
They wrote Netanyahu that the main obligations was not to arrest refugees and children except when there is no other choice and not to limit their movements except when there is a special need.