Israelis crack down on migrants who supported them for decades

Israel toughens the struggle against illegal immigration from North Africa. In the beginning of June, Israel lifted a number of decrees regulating the actions of law-enforcement authorities. Dozens of people have already been arrested. At the same time, Israeli human rights activists are still concerned about the attempts of Netanyahu's government to solve the problem of African refugees with the help of military force.

The campaign to deport refugees to their native countries continues to gain momentum. Fifty-five refugees from Eritrea and Southern Sudan were detained on June. The campaign was launched on June 7, following the decision of a court in Jerusalem. The decision automatically removes all legal restrictions on deporting illegal immigrants.

The court rejected the lawsuit from human rights organizations against Interior Minister Eli Yishai. The Minister's decision to terminate the policy of collective defense of Sudanese refugees was recognized as lawful. The interim order preventing the deportation of illegal labor migrants has been canceled, Cursor news agency said.

Law-enforcement bodies got down to business after a series of loud statements from Israeli ministers. The Migration Service continues to detect illegal immigrants, not only in Tel Aviv, but also in Eilat, where a thirty-year-old Eritrean man had been detained on the allegation of pedophilia. Another citizen of Eritrea was arrested on June 13 on suspicion of trying to create a terrorist cell in Israel. However, the measures, which Israel takes to struggle against illegal migration, have not brought any tangible results yet.

As many as 100 people have been deported from Israel since the beginning of the campaign to deport illegal migrants from the country. The campaign started just a few days ago. However, nearly 300 migrants have entered the territory of Israel during those several days, Ha'aretz said.

Netanyahu's government intends to spend taxpayers' money to encourage voluntary departure of African citizens from Israel. From now on, every illegal alien who wishes to return home, may count on a bonus of 1,000 euros.

The situation in Southern Tel Aviv still remains tense because of the clashes between locals and African refugees. Last week, an unidentified individual threw a petard at the people staying in a café owned by the natives of Eritrea. The reports of similar incidents have become commonplace in the Israeli media recently.

Many refugees from South Sudan and Eritrea do not hide their discontent caused by the discrimination on ethnic grounds. The United Nations has joined the protest of the Africans and those who fight for their rights. Recently, a United Nations representative in the Knesset said that sending Eritreans back home was equal to sending them to "imminent death."

In this regard, Israeli Maariv newspaper strongly criticized the head of the cabinet - Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister, the newspaper said, pointlessly escalates hysteria in the country. At the same time, the options proposed by the government to solve the problem of refugees are not feasible in practice. The police continue to arrest African migrants, but most of them will be released soon, the newspaper notes.

Simultaneously, the government initiated a law to toughen penalties for hiring illegal immigrants. The law has already received mixed reactions in the Israeli society. The provision of shelter, or employment of illegals will be punished with imprisonment of up to five years. Meanwhile, there were hundreds if not thousands of guest workers employed in construction and agriculture of Israel during the 1990s.

Until recently, the Israeli government was deliberately turning a blind eye on the fact that it was natives of Thailand who were doing all the hard work at Israeli farms connected with maintenance, irrigation and harvesting. It is thanks to low-paid work of Thai migrants that the Israeli market had been receiving cheap fruit and vegetables for many years. Palestinian workers were used in the construction industry mostly. Nowadays, employers hire illegal immigrants from Africa, who are willing to do any hard work for little money. The law proposed by the government is extremely unprofitable for Israel's large and medium sized businesses.

Either way, the consideration of this issue in the Knesset takes quite a time. On June 13, Kadima Party succeeded in taking the law about  tougher penalties for illegal employment of migrants from the agenda.

The main efforts of the government and the army are now aimed at organizing the repatriation of refugees and the creation of impermeable borders, especially in the South. However, the deportation of a few hundreds of people to their homeland does not change much in the situation with African migrants. According to various estimates, their number in the country ranges from 35 to 50 thousand people.

For the time being, there is no effective solution to the refugee problem in Israel. Migrants continue to penetrate in the country despite the unprecedented security measures at the border. However, the problem of African refugees in Israel is a part of the international problem that can not be dealt with effectively without expanding cooperation between countries in the UN.

Yuri Sosinsky-Semikhat


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov