african migrants 311 R.
(photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
The cabinet’s unanimous decision on Sunday to implement a NIS 630 million plan
to stem the tide of “illegal work infiltrators” (IWIs) from Egypt into Israel is
to be commended.
Among other things, the plan entails expediting the
construction of the Sinai border fence, expanding a detention center to hold
thousands of new arrivals, and fining Israelis who employ IWIs.
month ago, The Jerusalem Post
ran an editorial urging the government to take
urgent action on the issue after the Population, Immigration and Borders
Authority released figures showing that IWIs were flooding over our borders at
rapid, record rates.
“It is time for the government to hear the alarm
bells, wake up and do something!” we wrote.
An estimated 50,000 Africans,
mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, have illegally entered southern Israel in the
past five years from Egypt’s Sinai desert, according to government
The huge influx of IWIs has triggered a national debate, with
some arguing that they are an economic burden and threaten the Jewish nature of
the state, while others believe that the Jewish state of all countries should
not be rejecting people escaping persecution or seeking
Government officials insist that the vast majority have come in
search of work, and the purpose of the government plan is to stop them from
working here and taking jobs away from Israelis.
Echoing our editorial,
Netanyahu called the situation “a national disaster,” telling his ministers that
“if we do not act to stop the flood, we’ll be washed away with
“Israel is a small country,” the prime minister told his cabinet. “We
cannot allow ourselves to be flooded by illegal work-infiltrators. This
threatens our society, our economy and our security. Therefore, we must expedite
our dealing with the problem.”
The cabinet stressed in a statement that
the plan is designed to deal with the phenomenon of illegal work infiltrators,
and those who are found to have arrived here as legitimate refugees will be
dealt with according to law, as they are today.
All government ministries
have been instructed to allocate 2 percent of their budgets to finance the
initiative. Elements of the plan were approved last year but funding for
the overall program was not authorized until Sunday.
The plan has several
1. Completing the 240-kilometer Egypt border fence from Kerem Shalom
to Taba within a year. (An additional NIS 280m. will be set aside for this).
This in itself, as we have urged in an earlier editorial, will go a long way to
prevent the entry of IWIs.
2. The Saharonim facility at Ketziot operated
by the Prisons Service will be expanded (from 2,200 places to 5,500) to enable
the legal detention of IWIs from 60 days to a maximum of three years. This will
allow humane treatment of the infiltrators until a solution is found for
3. Fines against those employing illegal infiltrators will be
significantly increased, and in certain cases, businesses may be closed.
According to draft legislation that will be submitted to the Knesset, businesses
that employ IWIs may be fined up to NIS 75,000.
4. IWIs will be
transferred to a housing center being built (NIS 250m. will be allocated for
this purpose). At the center, those who cannot be returned to their countries of
origin or to a third country will be provided with all their basic needs:
Lodging, food and health services. (An additional NIS 100m. will be allocated to
operate and maintain the center.) The new center will allow Israel to round up
IWIs without violating international law, which requires governments to feed and
shelter migrants while their status is being resolved.
5. A plan will be
formulated for deporting illegal work infiltrators from the country. This will
clearly ensure that they do not take jobs from Israelis, and do not settle in
the country for extended periods, after which it becomes increasingly difficult
to deport them.
Israel has already repatriated hundreds of Africans, and
Netanyahu said he would consider returning more of the economic migrants when he
visits Africa next year. As we wrote in our editorial last month, the Jewish
people must not only serve as a moral example of how developed countries should
deal with IWIs, but must also make sure that a strong Jewish majority is
maintained in a sovereign Jewish state.