PM to talk illegal worker deportation on Africa trip

Cabinet approves -- again -- a plan to fight illegal infiltration.

Sudanese detained after crossing southern border 311 (R) (photo credit: Yonathan Weitzman / Reuters)
Sudanese detained after crossing southern border 311 (R)
(photo credit: Yonathan Weitzman / Reuters)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intends to discuss deporting illegal African workers back to the continent when he makes a historic trip to sub-Saharan Africa at the beginning of next year.
Netanyahu is expected to visit Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and possibly South Sudan. He told the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that dealt with a new plan to fight the infiltration of illegal workers that when he travels to Africa – a visit symbolizing the strengthening of relations with a number of countries that are plagued by Islamic terrorism – that he will “discuss and advance procedures for returning them to Africa.”
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The bulk of the illegal workers come via Egypt from Eritrea and Sudan.
The cabinet on Sunday unanimously approved Netanyahu’s NIS 630 million plan to deal with illegal infiltrators, just over a year after it met in November 2010 and approved a similar plan. That plan, government sources said, was never sufficiently funded, while the current one will be funded by a 2 percent contribution from each ministry.
The emphasis of the plan approved on Sunday will be on stepping up enforcement and increasing fines against those who employ illegal workers, with the idea being to stop making Israel a magnet for those seeking work.
According to draft legislation that will be brought to the Knesset, corporations employing illegal workers will face a NIS 75,000 fine and possible closure.
The law will also be amended to extend the amount of time that illegal workers can be held in detention, from 60 days to three years.
“We will close businesses, so that the enterprise known as the State of Israel does not close,” the prime minister told the cabinet.
Netanyahu said that the money will go to completing the 240-kilometer fence being erected along the border with Egypt, with the additional funds earmarked for building the barrier near Eilat, which is topographically the most difficult – and the most expensive – part of the fence to build.
Second, Netanyahu said, detention facilities will be built to house infiltrators who – because of enforcement of the law on employers – will be in need of housing before deportation, or those who will not be able to find jobs. The current detention center near Ketziot will be expanded, and another one will be built in the Negev, able to house up to 10,000 people.
The plan is for the workers to be held there until they can be repatriated.
Netanyahu said the illegal workers posed a threat to the country’s security, economy, infrastructure and social welfare system. “We have no obligation to accept illegal infiltrators,” he said, separating this issue from that of political refugees.
According to figures presented to the cabinet, there are 52,487 illegal workers in the country, with more coming at a rate of about 30,000 a year. Netanyahu said that without a multi-tiered plan to deal with the problem, the number is likely to reach 100,000 a year.
Israel needed to stem the tide of “entire populations that are beginning to move” in its direction, he said.
Netanyahu said the number of political refugees among those making their way to Israel was minimal, and that they would be given refuge.
He made similar comments at the cabinet meeting in November 2010, saying then that there was a “flood” of illegal workers that needed to be dealt with, and that the way to do this was through increasing fines on employees, deployment of forces on the border, building the Sinai border fence and making efforts in the international arena to foster reparation.