African immigrants, who entered Israel illegally, lean on the fence of the Holot detention centre in Israel's Negev Desert on February 17, 2014
African immigrants, who entered Israel illegally, lean on the fence of the Holot detention centre in Israel's Negev Desert on February 17, 2014 © Jack Guez - AFP/File
African immigrants, who entered Israel illegally, lean on the fence of the Holot detention centre in Israel's Negev Desert on February 17, 2014
AFP
Last updated: September 23, 2014

Israel orders closure of migrant detention camp

Israel's supreme court on Monday ordered the closure within three months of a desert detention camp for 2,400 illegal immigrants from Eritrea and Sudan, judicial sources said.

The country's highest court annulled an amendment of a vote passed last December that allowed the opening of the Holot camp in the southern Negev desert.

It ordered Holot closed within 90 days and repealed a provision of the law that drew heavy criticism from rights groups allowing Israel to detain illegal immigrants for up to year without trial, the sources said.

Under the rules laid down at Holot, detainees are required to sign in twice a day and to spend the night in the facility, ruling out chances of finding a job.

Interior Minister Gideon Saar criticised the court's ruling. "We have no other tool for fighting against illegal immigration," he said.

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

The UN says there are some 53,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Israel, most of whom entered via the desert border with Egypt.

Of that number, some 36,000 come from Eritrea where the regime has been repeatedly accused of widespread human rights abuses. Another 14,000 are from conflict-torn Sudan.

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