After much delay, construction is expected to start shortly on a new mass detention facility for illegal immigrants, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Thursday.
One of the aims, officials say privately, is to discourage the flood of illegal migrants, many of them from Sudan and Eritrea.
Population of the facility, situated near an existing facility at Ketziot in the south, will begin in six months. Initially the facility will house 3,000 people, with final capacity intended to reach a total of 8,000 illegal migrants.
It is estimated that there are over 30,000 asylum seeks currently residing in Israel, most of them African migrants who crossed the border from Egypt illegally.
As well as dividing immigrants along religious, ethnic and national lines to make conditions easier during their detention, authorities plan to provide basic education classes, medical clinics and sports facilities within the vast prison complex.
The substantial 8,000 capacity detention center in Ketziot is set to be the largest by far, compared to other Western countries such as Canada, France, Italy and the UK which have also experienced high influxes of asylum seekers and refugees from around the world in recent years. Speaking to Haaretz, Sara Robinson from Amnesty International cites the example of Canada, which receives from 35,000 to 120,000 illegal immigrants ever year while the largest detention center in that country houses just 272 persons.
Israel Hayom reported in December 2011 that Israel’s Immigration Border Authority apprehended a total of 2,676 people trying to illegally cross into the country in November alone.