(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Members of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee toured the
Egyptian border with Israel on Sunday, to examine the issue of illegal migration
through the porous border with Sinai.
During the visit, committee head
David Azoulay (Shas) called on the government to deploy more soldiers on the
border with Egypt, and form a special Border Police unit for the area. He also
met with Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy, who spoke to Azoulay about how the
migrants issue has affected the southern city.
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On Sunday, Azoulay said
the Knesset needs to immediately discuss the issue of illegal immigration and
adopt official policies on the issue.
He also accused the government of
“burying its head in the sand” in regards to the issue, which he said “is worse
than we imagined.”
He said “the committee is asking the Interior Ministry
to check the status of the infiltrators, including who is considered a migrant
worker and who is a refugee. The committee also asks the prime minister and the
finance minister to provide funding to the city of Eilat, to help them deal with
the high number of infiltrators in the city.”
Three months ago, Azoulay
sent a letter to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman in an effort to advance
legislation dealing with the issue.
Sunday’s visit came as the issue of
illegal migration from Sinai has become a hotbutton issue. There are an
estimated 35,000 such migrants in Israel, with the number crossing into the
country each month reaching as high as 2,000, well over double the rate last
The majority have settled in the Tel Aviv area, mainly in the
poorer southern environs of the city, a phenomenon that has been met in recent
months by protests from local residents.
The issue of the border fence is
also expected to take on greater urgency in light of the country-wide
anti-government riots taking place across Egypt over the past six days. On
Saturday, gun battles between Beduin and police in Sinai left at least 12 people
The tour on the border covered several concerns related to the
migrant issue, including how they cross the border, how they are processed in
Israel, what type of legal status they receive, and whether it’s possible to
deport them and if so, how.
In November, work began on a barrier on the
border with Egypt, an initiative that is expected to cost approximately NIS 1.35
The project will include a physical barrier supported by
electronic sensors, and is expected to take up to a year to build.