(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
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fence?Aharonovitch warns of influx of illegal African
MK Yaakov Katz (National Union), who chairs the Knesset’s Foreign Workers Committee, warned on Monday that within a few years, the number of Africans who are illegally residing in Israel will hit 100,000.
Katz made the statement during a committee meeting a day after the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) released record figures for the number of migrants who had infiltrated from Egypt in the first week of November.
According to PIBA, some 700 people crossed the border that week, putting the figure well above the monthly average of 1,100.
“The number of infiltrators will only grow, just as we said a year ago,” Katz told colleagues at the start of the committee’s deliberations. “There is no doubt that the residents of Tel Aviv will ask to move to Judea and Samaria when their city becomes African.”
According to PIBA, 2010 has seen a 200 percent increase in the number of African migrants entering Israel, with 10,858 people crossing over in the first 10 months of the year, compared to 4,341 in the same period in 2009. An estimated 27,000 African migrants are currently residing in Israel.
PIBA figures indicate that a majority of the migrants are males between the ages of 20 and 35, and that most of them come from Sudan and Eritrea.
Other countries of origin are Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Congo and the Ivory Coast.
The authority said the migrants pay approximately $3,000 for Beduin smugglers to help them cross the border.
PIBA said its figures were likely lower than the number of actual infiltrators because it counted only those who had been caught by the army, and not those who managed to make their way to African communities in Israel’s cities. It added that in recent months, African population centers had spread out from Eilat and Tel Aviv, where migrants had originally congregated, and could now be found in Tiberias, Haifa, Ashdod, Beersheba and Bnei Brak.
The government has proposed several ways to stop the flow of infiltrators, who are considered economic migrants rather than asylum seekers or refugees. Among the proposals is the construction of a physical barrier along the Egyptian border, legislation that would make it harder for migrants to remain in Israel, and entreaties to Egyptian security forces to reduce the flow.
On Monday, six haredi rabbis from Bnei Brak issued a halachic ruling that prohibits residents from renting apartments to migrants.
The ruling, titled “An appeal against horrible acts of lawlessness by which apartment owners rent their property to illegal immigrants and the like,” said the phenomenon had “grown to enormous proportions, and nowadays the situation is intolerable.
It is not only a general nuisance but leads to most serious problems. We have already been approached by families who fear for their children....Those who rent out the apartments must take responsibility for the spiritual consequences.”
The ruling came several months after 15 neighborhood rabbis from Tel Aviv signed a similar petition.
“It is a shame that in Bnei Brak of all places, a religious city that abides by the Torah, which educates to treat the stranger and immigrant among us fairly, there are rabbis who incite xenophobia and use Halacha to foment strife,” the Hotline for Migrant Workers said in response. “Despite the incitement against the foreign community in Israel, it must be remembered that among those arriving from Africa are refugees escaping war and horrors in their countries, among them refugees of the Darfur genocide and the war in Eritrea. The State of Israel would do well to set up a mechanism to clearly determine who is entitled to refugee status and who isn’t, because a country established by refugees cannot turn its back on refugees.”