Meretz and Likud Beytenu lawmakers engaged in a turf war Tuesday on whose committees should deal with the issue of African migrants.

MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud Beytenu) recycled a petition to the Knesset House Committee from July by Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) to not allow the Special Committee on Foreign Workers, led by MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), to discuss migrants.

“As a member of the Special Committee on Foreign Workers, I find myself indirectly participating and aiding violations of the law,” Ohayon lamented. “We shouldn’t deal with these people; the immigration authorities should.”

According to Ohayon, the Knesset is treating illegal migrants like foreign workers, which contradicts the government’s policy and is “sneaking [people] in while they break the law,” even though there are thousands of legal foreign workers.

Rozin pointed out, however, that, by law, a foreign worker is a worker who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Israel, and many migrants fall under that definition. In addition, she said the Economy Ministry treats migrants like foreign workers and punishes businesses who do not give them the rights such employees are due.

“MK Ohayon’s request is political. He’s trying to silence the opposition. He’s persecuting us,” she said. “It can’t be that whatever doesn’t suit the extreme Right will be censored.”

“It’s easier to try to silence us than to admit that the government doesn’t have any real solutions for refuge-seekers in Israel, but the time has come to deal with reality,” Rozin said.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) pointed out that a previous chairman of the special committee, former MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union), dealt mostly with migrants.

“[Katz] took [migrants] on as his personal project. This committee was always a forum for discussions about non-Israelis. Even if you call them ‘infiltrators,’ they’re workers,” Horowitz said.

Knesset House Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud Beytenu) decided not to bring the matter to a vote, saying he would raise it during a more general meeting on the roles of the Knesset’s committees.

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