(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
There are twice as many illegal migrants from Georgia and Ukraine in Israel as from Africa, and the government is taking action to remove them from the country, Interior Minister Arye Deri told MKs on Wednesday.
Deri said there are 79,000 people from the two Eastern European countries illegally living in Israel, and described to the Knesset Interior Affairs Committee a method by which Ukrainians and Georgians pay a company $5,000, the company arranges tourist visas and flights to Israel, and then buses them to south Tel Aviv, where they apply for refugee status.
“Once they apply, they can’t be deported until the request is reviewed, and the lines are long,” Deri explained. “A year ago, I decided to declare Georgia as a country to which there is nothing preventing us from sending back people who came from there illegally. We have a fast process of refusal within a few days... We’re waiting for the Justice Ministry and Foreign Ministry to start the same process with Ukraine.”
Deri said the “machers” in Georgia and Ukraine mislead people and promise them jobs in Israel.
“We began a public relations campaign in Georgia to explain that they’re being tricked,” he added.
As for African migrants, there are 39,000 in Israel, not including children; since January 2016, 18 have entered the country and 5,000 left.
Deri said “there is a totally different country in south Tel Aviv, 200 meters from a different reality. The feeling is that the infiltrators” – a derogatory term for migrants – “have taken over and you are a foreigner in your own country.”
“Israel is not built to absorb work infiltrators, and other than people from Darfur, they are infiltrators who have to go back to where they came from. They entered illegally, and it’s my job to send them out,” Deri said.
Residents of south Tel Aviv lamented the migrants’ presence in their neighborhoods.
“The amount of murder and rape in the infiltrator community is high and it reaches us,” Aviad Yisaschar, who lives near the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, said. “How much time do you have to act? We are trying to rouse you but you aren’t acting.”
MKs on the Left, however, called to show more understanding toward the migrants.
“These people came to save their lives,” MK Zouheir Bahloul of the Zionist Union said. “These people came to a country that is supposed to have compassion... The country can accept tens of thousands.”
Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud) said the committee will call on Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to increase the number of police officers in south Tel Aviv, and for the Interior Ministry to hire more people to deal with applications for refugee status.
In addition, Amsalem called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold a cabinet meeting and establish an overarching plan to address the issues.
“If we don’t solve the problem, it’ll get worse, and instead of dealing with 39,000, we’ll have 200,000,” Amsalem said.