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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.