Israel has blocked the flow of illegal migrants and must now focus on deporting
illegal migrants already in the country, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said
“October’s data shows that only 54 infiltrators crossed the
border last month and they were all – without exception – placed in
This means that none of them reached Israel’s cities,”
Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting, citing figures from the Interior
Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority.
“I remind you
that only six months ago, over 1,000 infiltrators were entering every month and
this number was increasing. On the basis of these figures, one may explicitly
say that we have blocked infiltration and now we must focus – and we are doing
so – on repatriating the infiltrators who are already in Israel,” the prime
In mid-October, ahead of a Knesset vote to dissolve
Knesset ahead of early elections in January, Netanyahu boasted of his work to stop the influx of migrants, in particular the construction of
the Egypt border fence as well as a string of recent anti-migrant
In November 2011, the Population, Immigration and Borders
Authority sent out a press release announcing that in the first week of the
month, around 950 African migrants illegally entered the country. Over the past
several months, as the Sinai border fence has neared completion, the government
has released figures showing a marked decrease in the number of migrants
crossing the southern border illegally. The reduced numbers have also come as
Sinai has continued its descent into lawlessness and the Egyptian military has
stepped up its anti-terror raids in the peninsula.
The prime minister’s
comments came shortly before Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), one of the
most vocal opponents of the African migrant community, said the state could
start working to close businesses operated by illegal migrants.
state can begin working against infiltrators who are business owners. The
infiltrators problem is an issue that endangers the future, identity and
uniqueness of the State of Israel,” Yishai said, adding that the state must
pursue these efforts until the businesses close.
He also called on the
Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry to draft a ruling that will allow the
government to deport Sudanese and Eritrean migrants, who make up the majority of
the more than 60,000 African migrants in the country.
Israel does not
currently deport Sudanese or Eritreans to their countries, as they could face
persecution upon their return.
During his time as interior minister,
Yishai has led a campaign against foreign workers and illegal African migrants,
and last week a Shas official close to Yishai said he was counting on the
migrant issue to help Shas attract Likud voters displeased with Netanyahu’s
handling of the issue. He also said that Yishai and Shas candidates list leader
Arye Deri did not see eye-to-eye on the issue.
Yishai’s statement on
Sunday came after the Justice Ministry said that in recent cabinet meetings
there was a recognition that the laws regarding closing businesses that were
operating without a license were not being enforced against migrants as they had
been enforced against the general population.
To avoid the appearance of
discrimination, it was decided that an additional effort would be put forward to
enforce the law and close businesses of migrants the same as among the general
The statement did not indicate the statistical basis of the
ministry’s findings on the issue.
Orit Marom of ASSAF, the Aid
Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, said on Sunday that one
reason for the drop in the number of migrants entering Israel “is the fact that
Israel is deporting refugees who are arriving at the [Egypt border] fence,
despite the international agreements that Israel has signed on to, which require
the country to give entry to those who reach their borders facing a threat to
Marom said that instead of focusing on “nonexistent
accomplishments,” the government “should answer the needs of the migrants in
Israel who lack the most basic rights, as well as of the Israeli population who
live among them. The lack of [refugee] status for asylumseekers causes a great
deal of suffering not only for them but also for the Israelis who live amongst
them, who include some of the weakest populations in Israel.”