More than a quarter million foreigners live in Israel, according to a report
issued on Sunday by the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers.
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to the report, which was based on Interior Ministry figures from November, there
were 88,864 legal foreign workers in Israel. In addition, there are around
95,000 people in Israel illegally on expired tourist visas, 31,000 Palestinians
working legally in Israel, and around 45,000 African “infiltrators,” most of
whom are requesting group protection status.
The foreign workers’ ‘Catch-22'
The figure also includes a
few thousand Jordanian citizens and Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip who work in Judea and Samaria.
The report, titled “Non-Israelis in
Israel: Foreigners, foreign workers, refugees, infiltrators, and asylum seekers
2010-2011,” does not include those who are in Israel on student visas or
unexpired tourist visas.
The overwhelming majority of foreign workers
perform unskilled labor, mainly in caretaking, construction, and
Forty-eight percent of those who came in 2010 were men, and
74% came from Asia.
The main source countries are Thailand (7,600 – 24%),
the Philippines (5,800 – 18%), former Soviet Republics (5,700 – 18%), India
(3,000 – 10%), China (1,600 – 5%) and Nepal (1,500 – 5%).
As of October
there were 8,259 construction workers in Israel, 24,532 working in agriculture,
and 52,466 as caretakers.
Of those who came as tourists and overstayed
their visas, most came in order to work, according to the report, and they are
harder than average to locate because they don’t stay in immigrant enclaves or
work in fields that are solely for foreign workers.
In 2010, about 1,300
Africans crossed the Egyptian border into Israel each month. That dropped to 400
per month by early 2011, before returning in spring 2011 to the 2010
The report does not include December, when 2,931 migrants entered
from Sinai, according to the Interior Ministry.
By the end of 2010, there
were 33,273 African migrants in the country, and by the end of November 2011
there were 45,000. These migrants are overwhelmingly men; of the 13,940 who
arrived in 2010, 11,961 were men, and 11,567 of the 13,686 who came in 2011 were
men, according to the report.
In 2010, 10,142 of those who entered Israel
via the Sinai border were from Eritrea, 2,927 from Sudan, and 38 from Ivory
Coast. In January-November 2011, 6,339 Eritreans entered Israel, followed by
3,739 from Sudan and 72 from Ivory Coast.
A number of people came across
the border from other countries including Georgia, Turkey and North Korea,
seeking asylum in Israel.
A record 16,000 African migrants illegally
crossed into Israel from Egypt in 2011, according to the IDF. In 2010, in
comparison, 14,000 Africans crossed into Israel.
The IDF believes that
the number will continue to increase as construction of the Sinai border fence
Some 100 km. of the fence has already been completed
and the remaining 120 km. is expected to be finished by the end of
The African illegal migrants who come to Israel mostly cross the
border along the sand dunes not far from the Gaza Strip or in the area around
“They know that this might be the last opportunity so the numbers
are increasing,” a senior IDF officer said.
After the Sinai fence is
completed, expectations are that the migrant workers will try to infiltrate
Israel via the Jordanian border. The government plans to begin closing off the
Jordanian border with a fence as well.