An African migrant worker sleeps on a bench of a bus station in south Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A special Knesset committee held a discussion on Tuesday about the situation of the residents of South Tel Aviv, who live among thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa.
Residents attended the meeting of the Special Committee for Distributive Justice and Social Equality and accused the municipality, and the state, of neglecting them while the northern part of the city is thriving.
The panel was attended by lawmakers and activists from different organizations, but no representative of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality came to the discussion.
“Menachem Begin Street became an actual border [between North and South Tel Aviv],” said Oved Hugi, an activist from South Tel Aviv. “Although there is no wall or fence, the municipality sees it as a border. For instance, if the police ever find infiltrators [a term for asylum seekers and illegal immigrants] north of that street, they pick them up and drop them in the southern part of town.”
Panel chairman MK Miki Zohar [Likud] said there is a feeling that the state abandoned the neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv and handed them over to the illegal immigrants and the asylum seekers.
“The responsibility lies with the State of Israel and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality. The mayor has abandoned the residents of his city,” he added.
MK Amir Ohana (Likud) blamed the migrants for undermining the personal security of the residents and called on the authorities to deal with the issue.
“The infiltrators are a dangerous nuisance and their culture is different,” he said.
“They have settled in a dense way in houses that cannot fit that amount of residents and in infrastructures that are unfit for it. People are defecating in the staircases; there are piles of garbage, violence, harassments and rape... We should use all means to deport them legally and get them out of the country,” Ohana added.
MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) blamed the legal system and said the court overruling major parts of the amendments to the Anti-Infiltration Law in 2013 and 2014 led to this situation.
“The life in South Tel Aviv has become unbearable,” he said. “The area has simply been occupied. The ‘Supreme Court of Injustice’ did not defend the residents of South Tel Aviv and rejected the ‘anti-infiltrators bill’ time after time.”
Yogev said the state should spread the illegal immigrants and asylum seekers all over Tel Aviv – north and south – and then the problem would be solved, suggesting that people from wealthy neighborhoods would not stand for this situation.
Shula Keshet, director of the Achoti – For Women in Israel movement, said the problem is not the illegal immigrants and asylum seekers themselves and that they should be treated with respect.
“I would not accept this generalization and calling people ‘a problem’ and labeling labor immigrants as ‘infiltrators,’” she said. “We should check each and every one of them to see if they will be in danger if they are forced to go back to their countries.”
At the end of the panel, Zohar said that he would submit a request to Interior Minister Arye Deri and ask him to review the issues that were discussed.
He also expressed his regret that no municipality representatives showed up.
“I call on the mayor once again to take responsibility and not to abandon the residents of South Tel Aviv,” Zohar said.