There will be no more “infiltrators” in Israel three years from today, Interior Minister Eli Yishai vowed on Tuesday, the same day he announced the formation of a task force to deal with the issue of illegal African migrants living in the country.

He added that he had placed the subject at the top of his priority list for the coming year and that it was his intention “to do everything I can to solve the infiltrator problem in Israel once and for all.”

Yishai said the task force would be devoted to two main goals: stopping further illegal migration into the country and working on ways to expel those currently residing in Israel illegally.

The task force will have two months to come up with recommendations, which the interior minister said he would present at an emergency cabinet meeting to be held for that purpose.

Leading the team will be Arnon Soffer, a professor of geography at the University of Haifa and the National Defense College. He was also one of the architects of the Gaza disengagement plan and has been outspoken about the demographic challenges facing the state.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post in May, Soffer said Israel could expect to face an unending wave of illegal migration in the coming years, mainly due to climate change in the Nile Basin and elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East.

“We are an island – we don’t belong to this region, and we have to defend Israel from waves of migration from Egypt from Jordan and maybe from Syria. If we want to keep Israel a Jewish state, we will have to defend ourselves from what I call ‘climate refugees,’ exactly as Europe is doing now,” the professor told the Post in the interview.

He also compiled a report in December 2009 for the University of Haifa and the National Security College entitled “Refugees or Migrant Workers from Africa,” in which he posited that most African migrants in Israel were economic migrants and not refugees or asylum-seekers.

In the report, he also called NGOs that assist African migrants “the cartel of human rights organizations,” alleging that many of the NGO workers were post- Zionists looking to destroy the country’s Jewish-Zionist character.

Also on the task force are Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yom Tov Samiyah, the former head of the Southern Command, the Gaza Division and the Givati Brigade; Prof. Jochanan Stessman of the Hadassah Medical Center; retired judge Sara Frisch, a former deputy head of the Central District Attorney’s Office; former head of the Police Operations Department and the Immigration Authority Asst.-Ch. (ret.) Berti Ohayon; and attorneys Aryeh Sharabi and Ron Rogin.

Israel has an estimated population of 60,000 illegal African migrants. As many as 90 percent of these are from Eritrea and Sudan, and according to international law they cannot be returned to their home countries, as they stand to face persecution there.

William Tall of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said that the government would first have to establish the difference between “infiltrators” and asylum-seekers, and would have to significantly increase its capacity to carry out refugee status determination if it wanted to deport thousands of illegal residents in the coming years.

“I think Israel needs a clear and appropriate definition of these two terms [‘infiltrators’ and ‘asylum-seekers’], and they cannot deal with the problem until they define who is who,” he said.

As the public discourse on the issue of illegal African migrants has become more and more explosive, with repeated acts of violence and arson targeting the country’s African community, Yishai has consistently been outspoken in his characterization of the migrants. In May, he said that if he had the tools, he would jail all of the migrants and then deport them to their home countries, and last week he told Ma’ariv that African migrants were raping many women in Tel Aviv, but that the women weren’t reporting the crimes so people wouldn’t suspect they were carrying AIDS.

On Sunday, the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority said that the country has officially begun implementing the “infiltrators law,” meaning that Israel can now jail, for up to three years, those caught illegally entering the country.

Also Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on the government to step up efforts to deport migrants from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia and South Sudan who are not considered refugees and are living in the country illegally.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that he recognized that it was impossible to expel citizens of Eritrea and Sudan because their lives would be at risk if they returned to their home countries.

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