Gov’t: Number of African migrants reaches high for 2011

Migrants’ NGO criticizes Immigration Authority for scaremongering; plans for ‘housing facility’ released.

311_African migrants (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
311_African migrants
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A total of 623 African migrants illegally entered Israel in the first half of June, the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority (PIBA) reported on Wednesday. PIBA said the amount was the highest registered yet in a two-week period this year.
According to PIBA, some 3,000 migrants have entered Israel in 2011 so far, an average of around 500 per month.
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The head of PIBA, Amnon Ben-Yishai, said in a press release issued Wednesday that the authority is ready to take measures against Israelis who are illegally employing migrants, but is hindered by the fact that a proposed detention center in the Negev has not yet been built.
“We are ready to enforce the law but until the holding facility is built, we can’t begin this work.”
According to PIBA spokesperson Sabine Haddad, there are now over 35,000 African migrants in Israel, more than 80 percent of them Sudanese or Eritrean.
Haddad added that “only avery, very small number of them are refugees.”
The announcement seemed to come as something of a surprise to United Nations High Commission for Refugees Representative in Israel William Tall, who told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that while “we [the commission] haven’t been getting the statistics we’d like on the arrivals from the government, my understanding is that the number over the last few weeks has decreased as opposed to similar periods of time in the past few years, so any increase would call for an investigation.”
Sigal Rozen, public policy coordinator for the Hotline for Migrant Workers, said that there were more African migrants arriving each month during the same period of time in 2010, and that the “relatively low” number of 350 per month for the beginning of 2011 “was not presented [by PIBA]. But if they present the bigger figures they can raise panic and shock the public. When they have figures that don’t do this they keep them quiet.”
The announcement by PIBA came the same day that the National Construction and Building Council released its plans for a holding facility for African migrants in the south of Israel.
Approved by the government on October 28, 2010, the facility in the area of Ketziot in the South will be able to house 10,000 people in addition to staff, and will provide basic living conditions for all involved, according to the plan released Wednesday. The Council also said they have come to the conclusion that there is a need to provide public buildings at the housing facility which will help the migrants “preserve their culture, while at the same time keeping separate populations [of migrants] who are likely to fight with one another.”
In addition, PIBA said their research has determined that there is a need to provide the migrants with employment or other activities to keep them busy at the facility, such as educational programs, vocational studies, recreation areas, and gardens.
According to the plan, the facility will include a processing center with medical facilities, and at least seven buildings that will house the residents. The residential buildings will include kitchens, showers, laundry rooms, clinics, storage rooms, open areas, recreational areas, and employment areas.
The plan released on Wednesday gave no indication of how much the facility will cost Israeli taxpayers or how long it will take to build.