New legislation targeting illegal immigration passed its second and third readings in the Knesset on Tuesday. Among the measures included in the bill are the power to detain illegal migrants for up to three years without charge, prison terms of up to 15 years for anyone convicted of aiding migrants involved in smuggling humans, weapons or drugs into Israel, faster construction of the border fence with Egypt, and a new detention facility.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahi, who had called the issue “a national calamity” and made the legislation a cornerstone of his plan to tackle illegal immigration, cast a vote in favor of the legislation.

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Detractors claim the bill is undemocratic and runs counter to Israel’s obligations to human rights. But Likud MK Zeev Elkin stressed that there were similar laws on the books in many other countries, and that the legislation was required to stem the growth of illegal immigration. According to figures, there were 52,487 illegal immigrants in Israel at the end of last year, most of whom arrived from Africa.

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