Israel must find responsible and serious ways of dealing with the illegal
migrant issue and not succumb to hysteria, MK Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz) said on
Monday, during a meeting of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers.
presented a multi-step plan for handling the issue.
committee’s chairman, said Israel must finish building the fence on the Egyptian
border, take measures to break up the smuggling gangs trafficking migrants to
Israel, step up the examination of requests for refugee status, invest more in
organizing the return of those not eligible for refugee status, and ensure that
the holding facility to be built in the South maintains suitable living
He also said Israel should enroll some children of migrants in
Israel boarding schools and award agricultural work permits to migrants, who
would replace farm workers from Thailand.
On the diplomatic front,
Horovitz said that Israel should increase diplomatic efforts in Africa and the
West to find countries willing to share the migrant burden.
Edelstein from the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority told the
meeting that recent assessments were that “infiltrators” would soon begin trying
to enter Israel by way of Jordan, and called on the government to begin building
an improved barrier on the eastern border.
During the committee meeting,
Avshalom Vilen, head of the Israel Agricultural Workers Association, said
farmers were willing and able to employ thousands of asylum-seekers, as did Yoav
Bachar from the Israel Hotels Association, who said there were around 3,000
openings in the industry that needed to be filled, mainly menial jobs such as
dish washing and housekeeping.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) issued a harsh
rebuke of the employment proposal, saying “If they are able to work in Israel,
infiltrators will have incentive to come here.”
He also said that he
heard from the Eritrean ambassador that in his country’s capital Asmara there is
a neighborhood called Tel Aviv, full of detached homes built with money sent
back by Eritreans in Israel.
Addressing NGOs and other supporters of the
African migrants, Danon said, “What you are doing is bringing Africa to Tel
Aviv. You have good intentions, but if you want to help them, go to Africa and
help them, don’t bring Africa to Pardes Katz, Bat Yam and Tel Aviv.”
Yaakov Katz (National Union) agreed, saying that if migrants knew that they
would be able to work in Israel, “a million or a million and a half will come
here,” adding that he is in favor of a detention facility and the refusal of
employment, which would cause the migrants to ask to be sent home with a
Sharon Harel of the United Nations High Commission on
Refugees said that refugee-status determination must be carried out for every
person who crosses Israel’s border, and that those who are determined to be
refugees must not be kept in the detention facility to be built in the
Also on Monday, the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environmental
Committee held a meeting on the issue of violence and incitement against migrant
During the meeting, committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas)
condemned violence against migrants, saying that it “goes against the principles
Cohen blamed the government for failing to deal with the
infiltration issue and to prevent the migrants from moving en masse to
disadvantaged neighborhoods, a phenomenon that he said had been the cause of
violence against them.
Representatives of the Foreign Ministry who were
supposed to attend the meeting announced at the last minute that they would not
be able to take part because they were on a “fun day” held for ministry
During the meeting, Yiftach District Police chief
Cmdr. David Gaz, whose jurisdiction covers south Tel Aviv and Jaffa,
said, “We are witnessing severe cases of violence [against migrants] and we must
not allow even verbal violence against them.”
He added that the crime
rate among migrants doubles each year and that in the neighborhoods where they
are concentrated, they commit around 50 percent of the crimes.
committee called on the government to find a solution to the infiltrators issue,
to increase police patrols in places where African migrants are concentrated, to
have the public discourse on the issue change and get rid of the verbal violence
and incitement, to call on the Foreign Ministry to find ways to get them out of
the country, and to condemn all violence against foreigners.
chairman and Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz said on Monday that the migrants “are not
refugees. They came illegally to look for work and do damage to Israel. The
1,500 to 2,000 who come in monthly must be stopped. The [Sinai] fence must be
completed. The next goal should be to return them to their country of origin, as
they [the state] has started.”
Mofaz is reportedly considering appealing
Sunday’s decision by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to provide
government backing for a bill that would increase the maximum punishment for
employing illegal migrant workers from two to five years.
The bill will
come to a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday, unless Mofaz files an
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin expressed confidence that the bill
would pass with or without Kadima’s support.