Tel Aviv municipality takes a strong stance against Liberman’s anti-immigrant comments

“As a municipality we don’t care if you’re a citizen, a resident, refugee, or illegal immigrant – as long as you are here we want policies that will be good for you.”

August 16, 2016 19:07
2 minute read.
Eritrean migrants in Israel

Eritrean migrants in Tel Aviv.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Tel Aviv Municipality is pushing back against Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s instructions to halt all IDF volunteer activities with migrant children in south Tel Aviv, saying the city is “obligated to care for the basic needs of the refugees and work immigrants.”

“[Mayor Ron Huldai believes] a man is a man no matter who, what, where they are from and where they are going and no matter whether they reside legally in the country or not,” the Tel Aviv Municipality said in a statement read to The Jerusalem Post.

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The municipality oversees Israel’s largest concentration of African asylum- seekers, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan.

Liberman’s order, reported Sunday in Yediot Aharonot, called for IDF volunteering efforts to be centered on needy Israeli citizens.

“Charity should begin at home,” he said.

Deputy Tel Aviv Mayor Asaf Zamir on Monday blasted Liberman with a statement on his Facebook page.

“As a municipality, we don’t care if you’re a citizen, a resident, refugee, or illegal immigrant – as long as you are here, we want policies that will be good for you,” he said. “This is good for everyone.”

Without providing specific figures, the municipality said billions of shekels have been invested in south Tel Aviv, benefiting both the citizen and migrant populations in the area.

The municipality also has invested in initiatives targeting the migrant-worker and asylum-seeker population. The programs include education, health insurance, housing, social work for at-risk youth and special assistance for victims of human trafficking.

Nevertheless, Haaretz reported that the municipality faced accusations of racism in July for opening 42 kindergartens that cater exclusively to migrant workers and asylum seekers.

Critics say this amounts to tacit segregation, though the municipality contends the segregation was not deliberate but rather a result of late registration by migrant families, which forced the city to group the migrant students together.

Zamir said anti-migrant statements such as Liberman’s are just a bandage to placate the deeper issue of Israel’s immigration policy and the future of Tel Aviv’s jurisdiction over 50,000 asylum- seekers.

“Almost all immigrants and refugees who are in the south of the city are here to stay – forever,” Zamir said. “I know it’s hard for some of you to hear. But this is reality as I perceive it, and it is best to start acting like it.”

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