The message that a young African receives from his acquaintances in Israel is that it is possible to earn $800 to $1,500 a month ($3-$7 per hour).

His monthly expenses are $400, so within a few months it is possible to repay the $3,000 he owes the Beduin who smuggled him from Cairo to Israel.

Some of the migrants even receive tips on how to avoid clashes with the Sinai Beduin to avoid overpaying, how to register with the Jews after crossing the border and how to get on a bus that will take them to Tel Aviv, where there is a city of Africans with an entertainment center.

There is work, mainly as cleaners. It is possible to get a regular job with a salary of $1,000 a month for a 10- hour day through an agency, or try your luck on the street for a higher daily wage. Life in Israel is fairly easy, and there is plenty of food. In the worst-case scenario, you will be deported back home with a bonus of a few thousand dollars.

Since the economic conditions in Sudan and Eritrea are dire, it is not possible to prevent the entry of 1,000 to 2,000 Africans a month unless they are cut off from the Israeli job market. This is part of a global phenomenon, and every country that does not allow the entry of illegal immigrants has learned that there is only one way to deal with the problem: build camps with full services for migrants without work permits, massive enforcement on employers to prevent the hiring of migrants and agreement to deport migrants back to their countries of origin, together with agreements with the foreign governments on penalties.

The measures should be precisely in this order. There is no point in enforcement on employers if there are no camps with services for migrants. Building a border fence is welcome, but it can be overcome with money.

There is also the sea, the land route from Jordan, tunnels, bridges and planes that carry tourists who remain here. The government long ago approved these measures, but it has not implemented them because of their high cost: NIS 10,000 per month per migrant in a camp. On the other hand, delaying action causes great socioeconomic damage to Israel’s poor.

It’s true for all foreigners The entry of low-skilled foreign workers from poor countries directly harms the jobs and salaries of Israelis. This is true of all foreigners: Africans, Chinese, Russians, Romanians, Turks, Thais and Palestinians, with or without work visas. They compete in a fairly free labor market, with limited enforcement of the minimum wage and labor laws.

In the unskilled labor market, 500,000 Israelis are competing against 280,000 non-Israelis for low-level wages as cleaners, farm workers, construction workers and other service providers. The more job seekers who enter this market, the lower salaries fall. The more workers with lower alternative incomes (incomes from their country of origin or welfare services), everyone’s bargaining power declines and salaries fall. The massive entry of foreign workers is a key factor in Israel’s widening economic gaps and why the salaries of the working poor have not risen in real terms for 30 years.

Removing the non-Israelis, especially the Africans, from the Israeli labor market will make it possible to deal with the deepening poverty and social harm caused by their residence in Israel’s main cities and their inclusion in the labor market. It must be made obvious that we will not grant citizenship to migrant laborers; they are ostensibly here temporarily, their employment harms the economy because it creates businesses and services based on cheap labor, it prevents the adopting of advanced technologies and then makes it hard to change.

To promote the employment of low-educated and low-skilled Israelis, the employment of non-Israelis must be minimized. Job training, help in hiring, the retraining of Israelis and the introduction of more automation are all necessary for Israeli workers to join the labor market at high salaries commensurate with their productivity. Israeli governments have agreed to this over the past decade, but they have done nothing.

Zvi Eckstein is the dean of the School of Economics at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and a former deputy governor of the Bank of Israel.

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