Eilat mayor launches anti-migrant campaign

Meir Yitzhak Halevi wants to "save the city."

July 8, 2010 05:56
3 minute read.
Eilat mayor launches anti-migrant campaign

eilat 88. (photo credit: )

A campaign to “save the city” of Eilat from African migrants was launched Wednesday by Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi, who said his city was being overrun by thousands of “infiltrators” who cross the Egyptian border and accused the government of neglecting the problem.

“Since nobody in the government is doing anything, the Eilat Municipality decided to take action in order to save the city,” Halevi told a press conference.

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“The city is losing its identity. Every day that passes, more and more infiltrators cross the border and join the city’s population,” he said. “Already every sixth resident of the city is an infiltrator. Eilat is home to 7,000 illegal migrants, making up 15% of the city’s population.”

Halevi said that the influx of migrants has devalued properties in the city, increased violence, taken jobs away from veteran residents and altered the city’s demographic makeup.

“Crime levels have grown by incredible proportions: theft, robbery, violence and sexual harassment have become a normal aspect of life. The police is unable to cope and the residents are afraid to leave their houses,” said Halevi.

The mayor said that Eilat reflected what was happening in other places across the country, like Arad and Tel Aviv, and that Israel had become “A heaven for infiltrators.”

He warned that Israel’s complacency would be its doom.

“Of all the countries of the world, Israel is the only one that displays ‘humanity.’ This is not humanity, this is national suicide,” said Halevi.

According to a recent Knesset Research Department report, as of the beginning of May there were 24,399 infiltrators and asylum-seekers in Israel. Of them, 18,959 cannot be expelled from the country, as they hail from Eritrea (13,310) and Sudan (5,649), and have been deemed to be at risk of harm if they are returned there.

The remaining ones, mostly asylum-seekers or economic migrants from central Africa, await status determination and will either be recognized as refugees or made subject to expulsion.

The report also indicates that the number of people crossing over the Egyptian border has been consistently growing. In January 866 people crossed over. In February, 904 and in March and April the numbers moved pass 1,000 people a month with 1,158 and 1,258 respectively.

On Monday, Halevi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz requesting that the Treasury transfer NIS 1.8 billion to the city so it can build a wall on the border to prevent the people from crossing.

Halevi wrote that if the Defense Ministry, which had been approved the budget originally, was incapable or unwilling to begin construction, the city would use the money and build it themselves.

In a related event, the Associated Press reported that an Egyptian security official told their reporter that an African migrant bled to death after being shot in the leg by border guards as he tried to cross into Israel.

The official said the shooting occurred early Wednesday near the Rafah crossing. He said the migrant was a 36-year-old Eritrean who paid Beduin traffickers about $1,000 to cross the border.

Egypt has killed dozens of African migrants near the Israeli border in the past two years, drawing criticism from rights groups.

In the past, human rights organizations have accused the Israeli government of lying to the public about the threat of infiltrators from Africa in an effort to prevent Sudanese and Eritrean asylum-seekers from obtaining sanctuary in Israel. In February a coalition of refugee aid organizations drafted a report slamming the government for fear-mongering.

The coalition’s report stated that reports produced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which are based on official numbers that the government provides, shows that 80% of the so-called infiltrators are actually refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, only they are not recognized as such because the government doesn’t want to have to grant them permanent residency status.

The report also states that the government regularly inflates the security and demographic threat posed by asylum-seekers.

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