Over 250,000 foreigners live in Israel, report finds

Number of infiltrators from Sinai is expected to increase as border fence nears completion, according to Knesset report.

January 8, 2012 08:33
3 minute read.
African migrants in Tel Aviv.

african migrants in tel aviv black 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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More than a quarter million foreigners live in Israel, according to a report issued on Sunday by the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers.

According 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.

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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 agriculture.

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 level.

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 nears completion.

Some 100 km. of the fence has already been completed and the remaining 120 km. is expected to be finished by the end of 2012.

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 Eilat.

“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.

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