Cohen: Need national plan to deal with African migrants

Israel's top cop says immigrants pose a number of criminal threats to Israeli citizens; African migrants account for 4.5% of 2010 murders.

Police insp.-gen. David Cohen 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Police insp.-gen. David Cohen 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Fatah Central Committee on Tuesday suspended the membership of Muhammad Dahlan, a former security commander in the Gaza Strip.
The decision followed allegations that Dahlan plotted to overthrow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
RELATED:Katz: Put bullet in head of Beduins smuggling Africans‘We are here because of the persecution we suffered’
Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen called on Tuesday for a country-wide program to address the issue of illegal migrants from Africa, declaring it “a national issue that deserves a national answer.”
Cohen added that such migrants posed a number of criminal threats to Israeli citizens and were causing “the development of a fertile ground for human exploitation and trafficking, as well as violent crimes, murder, extortion, property crimes, sex crimes and public order offenses.”
Police said Tuesday that Cohen had made the comments after receiving new figures on illegal African immigrants’ role in crime in Israel.
According to the police figures, 42 percent of criminal cases against foreigners have been against Africans, even though they make up a far smaller percentage of the country’s foreign population.
According to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics in July, there were 220,000 foreign workers living in Israel at the end of 2009. Today there are around 30,000 illegal African migrants in the country, constituting around 0.4% of its more than 7.5 million residents, according to October figures from the Knesset Center for Research and Information.
In spite of their small numbers, Cohen said Tuesday that African migrants accounted for six murders in 2010 – 4.5% of all murders in the country.
Cohen added that the figure represented a rise in the murder rate among migrants, in spite of a drop in Israel as a whole.
Cohen added that the majority of crimes in the African migrant sector were caused by alcohol consumption, in particular public disturbances, violent crime and property offenses.
However, Cohen’s statements contradicted the October study by the Knesset Center for Research and Information, which found that the rate of crime among African residents was significantly lower than that of Israel’s population as a whole. According to the study, illegal immigrants from Africa make up between 3.5% and 4.2% of the Tel Aviv population, but constitute only 0.72% of the criminal cases opened in the city over the past year. The study also found that while a criminal case had been opened against one out of every 15.9 Tel Aviv residents, the number was only one out of every 84.7 African migrants in 2009.
The study found that while there had been a 68% rise in the number of criminal cases against African residents since 2006, over the same period, the African population in Israel rose by 2,500%.
The Hotline for Migrant Workers issued a response to Cohen’s remarks on Tuesday, citing the October Knesset figures and accusing Cohen of “choosing to join those who are trying to sow fear.”
Attorney Reut Michaeli, the hotline’s executive director, called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “to immediately instruct all government agencies to fight incitement against asylumseekers.”
Michaeli added that it was the government’s responsibility “to urgently begin checking the asylum requests from Eritreans and Sudanese, who make up 90% of asylum-seekers whose requests have not been answered – and to ensure that they, like all residents of Israel, are ensured a dignified existence.”
Meanwhile, MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union), who heads the Knesset committee on foreign workers, told a meeting of the committee on Tuesday that the IDF should “put bullets in the heads of those Beduin leading the convoys.”