AN AFRICAN migrant walks with his luggage after being released from Holot detention center in the Negev in 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a heated debate invoking false comparisons to the Holocaust and Nazism at the Knesset’s Interior Committee on Monday morning, Interior Minister Arye Deri insisted that African migrants who are not determined to be refugees must be deported.
The meeting was initiated by MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), former chairwoman of the Special Committee for Foreign Workers, who is seeking the establishment of a parliamentary committee of inquiry on the country’s deportation policy.
Rozin said the committee will ask to investigate any deportation agreements the government has with a third country; the policy of not examining the asylum requests of Eritreans and Sudanese; and the rehabilitation of south Tel Aviv.
South Tel Aviv, Eritreans asylum seekers (Evgeny Ko, Youtube)
Committee Chairman Yoav Kish (Likud) began the hearing with a quote from Menachem Begin on the 1977 decision to absorb 66 refugees from Vietnam: “I have not forgotten where I come from, who my leaders are, and who my parents are,” he recited.
However, Kish called the growing pro-refugee movement’s comparison of African asylum seekers to Jews during World War II patently false.
“In recent weeks, an aid campaign for infiltrators has accelerated,” he said. “A comparison was made with the Nazis. The time has come to shatter the blunt lies: I condemn and hold in contempt the false use of the term ‘Holocaust.’” Kish said that those who compare the pending April deportations to Holocaust survivors have “some false sense of moral superiority and purity to preach to us about Jewish morality.”
He went on to cite the High Court of Justice’s ruling that it is legal to remove “infiltrators.”
“We will deal with the phenomenon without quotas… We will supervise the government’s work to remove the infiltrators. We will assist the residents of South Tel Aviv and other cities that have lost their character. The Jewish morality is to expel the infiltrators.”
Deri cited recent figures showing that deportation is not limited to African refugees.
“In 2017 more than 3,200 [African] infiltrators voluntarily left for a third country or their country of origin, and we forcibly removed 5,300 other people who are not Africans [but were] from Ukraine, Georgia and other countries – because they entered illegally,” he said.
“Since the phenomenon of infiltrators began, about 64,000 immigrants from Africa have entered the country, and there are officially 37,800 in Israel today – not including children born every year – and more than 20,000 have voluntarily left so far,” he added.
Deri also noted that he is aware of thousands of illegal residents from the Ukraine and Georgia who entered the country via human-trafficking scams and who will also be deported.
Of the 15,000 asylum applications submitted from Eritreans and Sudanese since 2013, he said 6,500 have been reviewed, and that only 11 refugees were granted refugee status.
“We make a complete distinction between those whom we think are refugees and migrant workers – and the Supreme Court has made a clear distinction between them,” he said.
According to Rozin, however, the government has abdicated its responsibility to review asylum requests in a timely manner or show transparency in terms of its plans to deport the refugees to an undisclosed third country.
“The government is repeatedly misleading the public and changing the facts,” she said during the meeting. “The current government refuses to properly handle asylum requests, and I demand that [refugees] be given asylum until they can return to their countries with security.”
Meanwhile, MK Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist camp) said that if the asylum seekers are not dealt with humanely, “this is going to be a shameful, ugly move that will signify that we are a society and country where human rights do not exist.”
“We came to this place because of a failed government policy that led to a catastrophe in south Tel Aviv, and only 11 people out of over 15,000 who submitted applications received refugee status,” he added.
In perhaps the most heated exchange, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg accused Likud members of Nazism.
“You are friends of Nazis,” Zandberg said, later clarifying after the meeting that she would not apologize for the comment.
“I really did not get carried away,” she said. “It’s time to expose the true face of the Likud. Yoav Kish’s demagoguery crossed all the redlines, and I said again and again that the ties of the ruling party with Nazi parties in Europe are shameful for the State of Israel and bring shame on the Israeli government.”
Zandberg added: “It is inconceivable that this government will use Holocaust demagoguery and at the same time retroactively prepare the genocide in Rwanda, establish ties with Holocaust deniers in Poland, and host antisemites from Austria.”