Israel is imposing newly strict measures on illegal migrants and those who assist them.
Under a new bill, passed Tuesday in the Knesset, illegal immigrants charged with a crime could be held for up to three years without a trial, and could face life behind bars if convicted of even a property crime. Those found guilty of aiding illegal immigrants could spend up to 15 years behind bars.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted for the bill, which many see as targeting Israel’s growing number of African migrants. His spokesman called the measure part of a “multitiered strategy to deal with the challenge of illegal immigration to Israel,” according to The Associated Press.
The bill has been sharply criticized by migrant advocates, who say that many Africans living in Israel would face harsh treatment were they to return to their homeland, and that they should be considered for refugee status in the Jewish state.
Some 50,000 Africans have entered Israel illegally since 2005, according to Israeli government estimates.