Kudos to the cabinet

Cabinet decision implement NIS 630 million plan against “illegal work infiltrators” from Egypt to be commended.

african migrants 311 R (photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
african migrants 311 R
(photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
The cabinet’s unanimous decision on Sunday to implement a NIS 630 million plan to stem the tide of “illegal work infiltrators” (IWIs) from Egypt into Israel is to be commended.
Among other things, the plan entails expediting the construction of the Sinai border fence, expanding a detention center to hold thousands of new arrivals, and fining Israelis who employ IWIs.
Exactly a month ago, The Jerusalem Post ran an editorial urging the government to take urgent action on the issue after the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority released figures showing that IWIs were flooding over our borders at rapid, record rates.
“It is time for the government to hear the alarm bells, wake up and do something!” we wrote.
An estimated 50,000 Africans, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, have illegally entered southern Israel in the past five years from Egypt’s Sinai desert, according to government sources.
The huge influx of IWIs has triggered a national debate, with some arguing that they are an economic burden and threaten the Jewish nature of the state, while others believe that the Jewish state of all countries should not be rejecting people escaping persecution or seeking refuge.
Government officials insist that the vast majority have come in search of work, and the purpose of the government plan is to stop them from working here and taking jobs away from Israelis.
Echoing our editorial, Netanyahu called the situation “a national disaster,” telling his ministers that “if we do not act to stop the flood, we’ll be washed away with it.
“Israel is a small country,” the prime minister told his cabinet. “We cannot allow ourselves to be flooded by illegal work-infiltrators. This threatens our society, our economy and our security. Therefore, we must expedite our dealing with the problem.”
The cabinet stressed in a statement that the plan is designed to deal with the phenomenon of illegal work infiltrators, and those who are found to have arrived here as legitimate refugees will be dealt with according to law, as they are today.
All government ministries have been instructed to allocate 2 percent of their budgets to finance the initiative. Elements of the plan were approved last year but funding for the overall program was not authorized until Sunday.
The plan has several components:
1. Completing the 240-kilometer Egypt border fence from Kerem Shalom to Taba within a year. (An additional NIS 280m. will be set aside for this). This in itself, as we have urged in an earlier editorial, will go a long way to prevent the entry of IWIs.
2. The Saharonim facility at Ketziot operated by the Prisons Service will be expanded (from 2,200 places to 5,500) to enable the legal detention of IWIs from 60 days to a maximum of three years. This will allow humane treatment of the infiltrators until a solution is found for them.
3. Fines against those employing illegal infiltrators will be significantly increased, and in certain cases, businesses may be closed. According to draft legislation that will be submitted to the Knesset, businesses that employ IWIs may be fined up to NIS 75,000.
4. IWIs will be transferred to a housing center being built (NIS 250m. will be allocated for this purpose). At the center, those who cannot be returned to their countries of origin or to a third country will be provided with all their basic needs: Lodging, food and health services. (An additional NIS 100m. will be allocated to operate and maintain the center.) The new center will allow Israel to round up IWIs without violating international law, which requires governments to feed and shelter migrants while their status is being resolved.
5. A plan will be formulated for deporting illegal work infiltrators from the country. This will clearly ensure that they do not take jobs from Israelis, and do not settle in the country for extended periods, after which it becomes increasingly difficult to deport them.
Israel has already repatriated hundreds of Africans, and Netanyahu said he would consider returning more of the economic migrants when he visits Africa next year. As we wrote in our editorial last month, the Jewish people must not only serve as a moral example of how developed countries should deal with IWIs, but must also make sure that a strong Jewish majority is maintained in a sovereign Jewish state.