March 10, 2012
Israel is to begin construction soon on a vast detention facility in the Negev desert to house the thousands of immigrants that cross illegally into Israel from Egypt every year.
Human rights groups fear that the detention centre, the largest of its kind in the world, with a capacity to hold 8,000 migrants, will turn into a festering refugee camp, and deprive those escaping persecution at home of their rights to seek asylum in Israel.
The project was approved by Israel’s right-wing government 18 months ago, but many Israelis are uncomfortable about spurning asylum seekers from war-torn African countries given their own history as a nation of refugees.
“We’ll do all it takes to provide reasonably humane conditions,” an unnamed defence official told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. “We all wish we didn’t have to build such a facility. But we’re in a certain situation due to certain circumstances, and we need a facility to address these needs.”