Some 68.8 percent of Israelis believe refugees are a burden on the country’s
economy, according to a survey conducted by the Center for International
Migration and Integration, an organization founded by the American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee, and released ahead of Thursday’s World Refugee
The survey, which sampled hundreds of Israelis, also revealed that
59.9% of the population believes the refugee community is dangerous for Israeli
society and some 43% said they do not think the government should work to
integrate children of refugees into the country’s school system.
survey’s questions refer solely to “refugees,” though the survey’s press release
makes mention of the broader population of asylum-seekers, “infiltrators” and
illegal residents of Israel.
Asked whether it would bother them if
refugee families were to move to their neighborhood, 55% of respondents answered
that it would, while only 16.9% said they wouldn’t mind.
In terms of
health, the majority of respondents said they believe that the rate of diseases
among the refugee community is different from that of the general
In addition, some 54% of Israelis blame refugees for taking
up jobs in the country, even though they would not be willing to work in those
specific jobs themselves, which include security jobs, waitressing, porterage,
cleaning and construction work, even if they were in financial
On the other hand, when asked whether the government should
deport refugees back to their homelands even if doing so presents a risk to
their lives, the majority of respondents said it shouldn’t.
Some 35% also
said they believe that Israel has a moral obligation to provide care and
protection to refugees.
The chairman of CIMI, Arnon Mantver said he
observes two trends emerging from the survey: “On the one hand, the Israeli
public does not know the refugee population, so they are afraid of it and
associate it with negative traits,” he explained. “On the other hand, the
Israeli public also remembers the fact that in a not so distant past, we were
ourselves refugees in distress, and therefore it is our moral duty to help the
Oscar Olivier, an asylum-seeker from Congo who has lived in
Israel for 19 years, said Monday that he has trouble believing the
“These numbers are saying that most Israelis are xenophobic, and
I don’t think this is the case. When my daughter was born in Hatikva [a
neighborhood in south Tel Aviv] nine years ago, half of the street came to our
house bearing gifts.”
Olivier said that while he doesn’t believe the
findings are accurate, if Israelis do feel such sentiments toward
asylum-seekers, it is because of demonization in the press and statements by
politicians that have only worsened the situation.
“The allergy Israelis
have developed toward Africans is from the politicians.
When they say
they aren’t refugees, they’re infiltrators and they carry diseases, you think
that will help the public agree to sit with them and be their neighbors? You
think this helps relations?” Mantver stressed that CIMI staff works all year
round to mitigate tensions between refugees and the rest of the
To mark World Refugee Day on Thursday, the organization will
hold special events in municipalities with high concentrations of refugees,
asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants, such as Beersheba, where activities
aimed at bringing Ben-Gurion University students and refugees together will take
In Jerusalem, residents will be invited to an African dinner in
the company of dozens of refugees, who will share their personal stories with
According to figures released by the Population,
Immigration and Border Authority last month, some 161,044 refugees,
asylum-seekers and undocumented people reside in Israel today.