Cabinet approves costly plan to deal with illegal migration

Grant given to Africans who agree to leave upped to $3,500.

African migrant woman (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
African migrant woman
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The cabinet this week approved a plan to deal with illegal migration to Israel, which is expected to cost as much as NIS 440 million. The program is to use increased measures to “encourage migrants to leave Israel” including higher voluntary return stipends, and the creation of 550 government positions to tackle the issue.
The 550 government positions is to reinforce the Public Security Ministry, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, and the Economy and Trade Ministry.
The NIS 440m. is to be taken from other government ministries, largely to fund the construction and operation of the “open detention facility” in the south, which is expected to be able to hold around 3,300 of the estimated 53,000 African migrants in Israel.
The proposal includes NIS 73m. for programs to improve the personal security of residents in areas with a high concentration of migrants, including the hiring and deployment of higher numbers of police.
In addition, the proposal includes an increase in the stipend given to Africans who agree to leave Israel voluntarily, from $1,500 to $3,500.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday in regards to the program, “we are determined to deport the tens of thousands of illegal migrants who are here after having reduced to zero the number of illegal labor migrants who enter Israel’s cities. The steps that we unanimously approved today are proportionate and necessary for maintaining the Jewish and democratic character of the state and will restore security to Israel’s citizens while upholding the directives of the High Court of Justice and international law.”
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, for his part, said “the current plan provides essential tools for the struggle against illegal migration into the State of Israel, pursuant to the ruling of the High Court of Justice. We must stand as a fortified wall to uphold the vital interests of the State of Israel and its citizens.”
The Israeli government prefers to not refer to the facility as a prison or detention center, saying instead it will be an open facility where migrants will have their needs met, which be closed at night with head counts.
“Illegal migrants in Israel will be directed to the facility where their physical needs – including lodging, food and drink, and basic health needs – will be provided for. Illegal migrants directed to the facility will be unable to work.
Thus, for the first time, the ban on employing them will be enforced. Concomitantly, the state will begin enforcement actions against those who employ illegal migrants who reside at the facility,” the PMO said on Sunday.
The government plan is an answer of sorts to the High Court decision in September to revoke the amendment to the Infiltrators Law, which allowed for the detention without trial for up to three years of people caught illegally entering the country.