The Interior Ministry has confirmed the contents of a leaked internal report, which states that since launching operations in July, its Oz task force has been responsible for the deportation of 700 illegal migrant workers and the voluntary exit of 2,400 more.
Human rights organizations say that the statistics in the report, which appeared in Haaretz on Monday, prove that negotiation and discourse are more effective than arrests, but that the intimidation caused by Oz's activities are a major motivator for the voluntary exits.
Oz officials chose to say that the numbers proved that their intensive activities work.
"You cannot ignore the fact that routine enforcement activities are proving effective as many foreigners, among them families, prefer to leave voluntarily without waiting for decisions and prosecution," said Meir Gopstein, who heads Oz's voluntary departure section.
Since the beginning of July, Oz has advertised in newspapers and online, asking illegal migrants to come forward and have their status determined and, if necessary, make arrangements for voluntary exit.
Every time they go out to the field , Oz inspectors carry with them a large bundle of pamphlets, printed in Hebrew, English and Arabic, explaining the voluntary exit method and providing contact numbers and addresses to report to.
The widespread reports on the threats to deport 1,200 children of migrant workers born in Israel has somewhat eclipsed the immigration authority unit's ongoing work, but while there is a moratorium on the expulsion of the children, as far as adults are concerned it's business as usual.
As part of their daily routine, Oz inspectors have continued to patrol the country's migrant-worker concentrations, mainly in southern Tel Aviv, to pick up the illegal residents, arrest them and if possible, expel them from the country the same day.
The leaked report also included the daily results from the day it was written. On that day, Oz inspectors examined the paperwork of 91 people in Tel Aviv, 40 in Jerusalem and 23 in the southern district.
Of a total of 154 people checked, 15 did not have valid permits and were arrested as illegal residents.
The numbers in the report offer interesting insight into the operations of the Oz task force. For one thing, they show that to reach its goals, the Interior Ministry will have to rely on voluntary exits more than actual arrests.
According to calculations, 15 arrests a day is higher than the unit's average, but even at that rate, it would take five years to arrest and deport the 20,000 people the government has set as a target for expulsion by the end of 2009.
But if one takes into account the voluntary exits, assuming the same ratio of 3.5 volunteers for every arrest, it would take the Oz inspectors just under two years to achieve the target.
To expel 100,000 illegal migrants, the government's target for 2013, Oz inspectors will have to double their daily arrests tally and hope that their activities will continue to generate the same amount of voluntary exits.
According to Interior Ministry figures, Israel has 280,000 illegal migrants. Of these, 118,000 entered the country with legal work permits but for a variety of reasons lost their legal status, 90,000 entered under tourist visas and never left after they expired, and 24,000 either infiltrated illegally or are asylum-seekers whose status has not been determined.
Israel is also home to roughly 300,000 people with valid work permits, who were brought to the country to work in construction, agriculture and caregiving.
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