Curbing the influx

Africans headed toward Israel still expect that if they get across the border, they will reach the large cities, find work and earn well.

July 11, 2012 22:26
3 minute read.
Immigration officers escort African migrant in TA

Immigration officers escort African migrant 370 (R). (photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Something perplexing is happening on Israel’s border with Egypt. The sophisticated fence that was supposed to cut off the infiltration of African economic migrants via Sinai hasn’t yet produced anything approaching the expected results. This, despite the fact that the fence is being rapidly constructed and has been completed at the most vulnerable crossing points.

By now, it should have dramatically slowed down the illegal influx. But it hasn’t. The only encouraging figure is that last month only 928 infiltrators were apprehended as against a monthly average of 1,500 over the past couple of years.

Yet since this is only one month’s data, it is too soon to draw cogent conclusions. It may well be that more infiltrators made their way in than we know about.

Indeed, if we judge by the statistics of 2012’s first six months, it seems that the number of infiltrations has grown since the barrier began to appear on the Negev’s landscape.

More than 10,000 infiltrators were detained between January 1 and June 30 alone. This is a dramatic increase from 2011, when it wasn’t until the end of October that the 10,000 mark was reached.

There can be only one bottom line here. Fence or no fence, Israel’s fame as an exit point from Africa has spread far and wide across the sub-Saharan region.

Despite the belated awakening of Israeli public opinion to the deluge and its inherent threats to our demographics, Israel’s attractiveness to Africans is showing no signs of abating.

The reasons are multifold. Economic pressures to migrate out of Africa haven’t subsided, to say the least. Concomitantly, other exit points – or spouts into the First World – are being plugged. This extends all the way from the Spanish Sahara in the West to the Balkans in the East.

Israel, with its incomparably liberal mind-set, remains the glaring exception, and hence is still considered a pushover.

These perceptions are unlikely to change until word gets back to Africa that the party is over. But as of now, conditions haven’t modified near enough to promote an upsurge of messages sent back home discouraging the migration here.

Africans headed toward Israel still expect that if they get across the border, they will reach the large cities, find work and earn well. Despite all the hullabaloo in our public discourse, not enough has changed on the ground to negate these expectations.

The fence has clearly been breached on some occasions.

Even when its construction is concluded and it straddles the entire border, it would not be impenetrable, to say nothing of the likelihood that it could be circumvented around the corner from southern Jordan. Where there’s a powerful will, there’s a way.

The trouble is that the government’s efforts to dampen that will have so far proven paltry and far from effective.

Thus, despite the much-hyped campaign to return Southern Sudanese infiltrators to their one-year-old state, only some 600 have thus far been flown to Juba.

This is a drop in the bucket.

Next on the Immigration Authority’s sights are citizens of the Ivory Coast, who had been flocking here in increasing numbers and cannot claim even a tenuous geographical proximity with Israel. Their numbers here are estimated in the thousands, with no specific figures available due to the fact that they are here illegally.

For a while, they enjoyed a “collective protection” status due to the mayhem in their homeland, but that has long expired.

Although the voluntary repatriation plan for the Ivorians was duly announced weeks ago, so far a mere six people have registered for the return trip to Abidjan.

This per force will eventually require more proactive moves to locate and round them up, sure to excite an outcry from a plethora of aid groups, which will boost the impression by Africans that they have a right to stay here.

Nothing will alter this until Israel loses its lucrative image. This means, inter alia, cracking down on employers of illegal workers and removing squatters from our urban public domain.

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