Eritrean migrants, Sinai_311.
(photo credit: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters)
The government does not have a solution for dealing with the African migrants
inside Israel, and is focusing on preventing further migrants from entering, the
head of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers said Monday.
RELATED:PIBA: Record number of 'infiltrators' in December TA mayor to PM: Stop illegal immigration
Horovitz (Meretz) said, “The government does not have a solution for those
refugees who are already here. All of these plans about fences and laws
and the like, are all just solutions that will solve issues in the future. But
for those already here, the government has no solution.”
hours after the committee held a meeting on the issue of African migrants, with
a particular focus on what to do with the large number of such migrants already
in Israel who have no intention of leaving voluntarily.
committee meeting, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said Israel has a
responsibility to assist refugees and brought up the possibility of giving many
of them work permits in place of foreign workers from Asia and elsewhere who
continue to arrive in Israel each year.
Reuven said the current situation
forces African migrants to work illegally, exposing them to abuse by employers.
He also said that he feels that the United Nations understands the importance of
cooperation with Israel and other regional neighbors in finding solutions to the
For his part, head of the Population, Immigration, and Borders
Authority (PIBA) Amnon Ben-Ami told the committee meeting that allowing African
migrants to work legally will complicate efforts to deter further migrants from
coming, and will cause their numbers to rise even further.
He also said
that PIBA has “indicators” that show that the “infiltrators” are not refugees
and that “the use of this terminology is incorrect.”
United Nations High
Committee for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Israel William Tall said that
the meeting was beneficial and added that he has noticed that the tone of such
meetings has become more rational and understanding over the past two
Tall also related to a report on Sunday that Israel will build a
security fence along the Jordanian border, once the fence on the Egyptian border
is complete, to stop migrants from entering Israel from the East. Tall said that
he had never heard of an African migrant entering Israel from Jordan, but that
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may have made the statement in order to show
that he is “ahead of the curve” on the issue.
“Now there’s a realization
[in Israel] that there is an eagerness by people to come to Israel and the fear
is that this will lead to resourcefulness,” Tall said.
that the [Sinai] wall will be effective and that people may try to take a boat
to Jordan or Saudi Arabia in order to enter Israel.”
committee meeting came a day after PIBA announced that December broke a new
record for the number of “infiltrators” who crossed into Israel illegally by way
of the Sinai Peninsula.
According to the figures, 2,931 migrants
illegally entered Israel in the final month of 2011, part of a total of 16,816
who entered Israel over the course of the year.
In a report issued in
December 2011, the authority stated that there is a grand total of 51,125
“infiltrators” in Israel as of November 25, 2011. Of these, 28,205 are from
Eritrea, 13,066 from Sudan and 9,855 from elsewhere in Africa.
Sunday, PIBA said that after an assessment was made by the Foreign Ministry,
they have come to the conclusion that Israel can begin working to return those
citizens of the Ivory Coast currently residing in Israel.
Though it did
not say exactly how many are in Israel, they are among the nearly 10,000 mainly
West Africans and Congolese in the country.
According to PIBA, the
Foreign Ministry has ruled that the situation in the Ivory Coast can not
currently be seen as one of civil war due to the improved security situation in
the country, and that steps can be taken to begin returning Ivory Coasters
As a result of the decision, beginning January 1, Ivory Coasters will no
longer be allowed to temporarily reside in Israel legally.
that they are calling on all residents of the Ivory Coast to return voluntarily
to their home country.
Defense officials said that the increase in
infiltrations in recent months was understood to be part of an effort by African
migrants interested in reaching Israel before the fence is
None of the infiltrations have taken place where there is a
fence and the IDF recently sent troops from the Golani and Givati Infantry
Brigades to try and climb the five-meter fence and they failed.Herb
Keinon and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.