MK Katz: 10% of Tel Aviv to be infiltrators in 2012

Cabinet-approved detention facility delayed due to budgetary dispute; 7,000 migrants expected to enter Israel this year.

311_African migrants (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
311_African migrants
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ten percent of Tel Aviv’s population will be African migrants by the end of next year, if a detention center for “infiltrators” is not built, MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union), chairman of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers, warned on Monday.
Katz announced that he will introduce a bill to speed up the facility’s construction, following a meeting of his Knesset panel to discuss why it still has not been built. The detention center, meant to hold Africans who illegally cross the Egyptian border, was approved by the cabinet in November and was supposed to be built in the Halutza Dunes area near Gaza and Sinai within six months.
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Hillel Friman, representing the Prime Minister’s Office, told the MKs that the detention center was not built because of a budget dispute between the Finance Ministry and the Defense Ministry.
The Finance Ministry representative said in response that it cannot transfer funds to build the facility unless the Bill for the Prevention of Infiltration is approved by the Knesset.
“The Defense and Finance ministries’ answers are not good enough, when considering the demographic threat,” Katz said, calling for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to appoint one of the government’s ministers-without-portfolio to take care of the “infiltration problem.”
Katz added that 7,000 people are expected to illegally enter the country through the southern border in 2011, bringing the number of illegal immigrants in Israel to nearly 42,000. More than 400 such migrants have crossed into Israel since the beginning of June.
“If infiltrators continue to enter at this rate, there will be 50,000 by the end of 2012, 40,000 [of them] in Tel Aviv,” he said. “It pains me that 10% of Tel Aviv’s residents will be infiltrators.”
The planned detention center would be built near the Saharonim Prison, and provide the migrants with shelter, food and medical services.
Katz also said that the fence being built on the border with Egypt is being constructed faster than expected, but that many more migrants will illegally enter Israel before it is expected to be finished, at the end of 2012.
In February, defense officials said that the monthly average number of illegal infiltrators into Israel from Egypt had dropped from 1,000 to 400, due to the fence’s construction, as well as the increased presence of soldiers and border policemen in the area.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.