Israeli musicians, actors, journalists and authors asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to allow African migrants to stay in Israel.
“In recent weeks, we have witnessed the asylum-seekers’ struggle. The message and the power of their cry surprised most of the Israeli public. We heard their cries and cannot remain apathetic,” the letter, sent on Sunday, reads.
Among the 80 artists and media figures who signed the letter are authors Amos Oz and Etgar Keret, actors Gila Almagor, Moni Moshonov, Moshe Ivgy, Keren Mor and Orna Banai, singers Gidi Gov, Ehud Banai and Berry Sakharof, and journalists Yaron London and Motti Kirschenbaum, hosts of the eponymous Channel 10 show.
“We look at the asylum- seekers and see women, men and children who live in Israel in distress and fear,” the message continues. “The time has come to give a just and fair response to their needs.”
The letter calls on Netanyahu to adopt a policy based on the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which Israel signed.
“As people,” the letter states, “we witness the distress and know we cannot stand aloof.
As Jews, we carry the memory of being a refugee and facing locked gates. As citizens, we ask to host in our joint home the asylum-seekers who reached our country.”
The letter is a joint project of Assaf Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Israel and Amnesty Israel.
Last week, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar presented to the Knesset Interior Committee the results of the Law to Prevent Infiltration, 100 days after it passed.
According to Sa’ar, the law is a success: 4,000 migrants left Israel willingly in 2014, as opposed to 825 who did so in the first quarter of 2013. As such, he plans to extend for an additional three months the $3,500 financial incentive for leaving the country, as opposed to last year’s amount of $1,500.
Sa’ar added that there are currently 1,533 migrants in the Holot holding facility, which is about half of its capacity, but he expects it to be completely full in the coming months and is considering expanding it. Holot is an open camp, which migrants are free to leave when they want to. It has sports fields and a medical and dental clinic.
The Interior Ministry has fined 350 businesses for employing migrants, reaching a total of NIS 3 million in fines.