Netanyahu cabinet 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The “flood” of illegal African workers who have infiltrated the country over the last few years via Egypt is threatening the Jewish, democratic nature of the state, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday.
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Netanyahu’s comments came during a cabinet discussion on formulating a comprehensive policy regarding migration into Israel. The discussion will continue on Monday.
The cabinet was
presented with data stating that between 26,000 and 155,000 illegal
economic migrants have come into the country via the long border with
Egypt over the past few years. Netanyahu said this was a “concrete
threat” that “most enlightened Western countries” facing a similar
problem have already taken steps to combat.
The huge discrepancy
in the numbers is because while there are some 26,000 documented
infiltrators, the police estimate that the true number is more than five
“It is inconceivable that precisely in Israel, which
is without a doubt the most threatened state in the Western world,
there is no governmental migration policy that protects our national and
security interests,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said
that the issue has not been dealt with for years, and that he wanted to
bring legislation dealing with the matter to the Knesset in the fall. He
said that in the near future, after a committee headed by Justice
Minister Yaakov Neeman issues recommendations, the cabinet will make the
decisions needed to deal with the issue.
This will include, he
said, clamping down on employers hiring the migrant workers, arranging
for the deportation of infiltrators to their countries of origin or
third countries, and the construction of a barrier along the Egyptian
border to make infiltration more difficult.
Netanyahu has been
talking about building the barrier along the 240-kilometer border with
Sinai for months, and in March the cabinet even approved it, but so far
little has moved on the ground.
One government official said that
deporting the infiltrators is especially difficult, because most of
them come from Eritrea or Sudan. Israel has no diplomatic relations with
Sudan, and therefore no way to deport the infiltrators.
Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who filled in at the meeting for Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was attending a conference in
Kazakhstan, said that Israel had approached third countries, such as
Côte d’Ivoire, about taking in the deported workers, but it seemed
unlikely they would do so. He also said that Israel has been in contact
with the UN over the matter.
Statistics presented to the cabinet
showed that of 3,500 infiltrators who were studied, only two were bona
fide political refugees. The rest were here looking for better economic
The cabinet was told that the average salary a day
laborer earns in Egypt, the country through which the Africans come into
Israel, is NIS 4, while the average daily salary here is NIS 154.
Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told the ministers there are
about 3 million Africans illegally in Egypt, and that there was real
concern that many of them would try to infiltrate Israel. He said a
whole industry has developed in Egypt to smuggle these people into
Aharonovitch said that from the beginning of the year,
around 7,000 people have been smuggled across the border with Egypt, and
that about 1,200 come across each month.
The three cities with
the largest number of illegal workers are Tel Aviv, Arad and Eilat, he
said, with the illegals making up fully 10 percent of Eilat’s
The new favored destination, he said, was Ashdod.