Volatile migration

While there is absolutely no excuse for the despicable attacks, we must acknowledge that there is a migrant crisis.

Daycare owner shows firebomb damage 390 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Daycare owner shows firebomb damage 390
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Hours after Independence Day came to a close, a despicable string of potentially fatal attacks was carried out against the migrant community in south Tel Aviv. Starting around 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning, four apartments housing African migrants and asylum-seekers were fire-bombed.
In one case, assailants threw a Molotov cocktail into the home of Maskala Masgene, an Eritrean asylum-seeker.
Luckily, the bottle did not break and Masgene threw the bottle back out.
In another case, the Molotov cocktail exploded on the frame of the window of an apartment where an Eritrean woman and her four children were sleeping, directly under the window. Once again, thankfully, no one was hurt.
Blessing Akachukneu, a Nigerian migrant, and four children aged six months to three years were also spared injury when the apartment where they were sleeping – which also serves as the “Divine Day Care” center – was fire-bombed
Inexplicably, Tel Aviv police did not bother to notify reporters of the attacks. Instead, news of the bombings was made public thanks to local photographer Oren Ziv whose photos were posted on the left-wing blog +972.
In response to a query from The Jerusalem Post’s Ben Hartman regarding the absence of an official announcement, a police spokesman responded that reporters were not notified of “every little incident.” But this was hardly a “little incident.” Serious injuries or even deaths could easily have been caused to the migrants and their children. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was right to condemn the bombings on his Facebook page and to recognize their racial undertones.
Unfortunately, no high-ranking government official has followed suit.
Despite their initial seemingly cavalier attitude to the attacks, the police were quick to track down a suspect – Haim Mula, 21, a neighbor of the migrants.
Mula was described by locals as a quiet and serious religious young man.
Tensions have been rising between Israelis and rapidly growing migrant communities in places like south Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood, where the fire-bombings took place. This was evident in the aftermath of the attacks. A group of human rights activists who arrived at the scene to protest were confronted by locals calling for the migrants to be deported.
Several residents interviewed in the media actually justified the fire-bombings. One, who called herself “Mina,” told Ynet that “the apartment in which I invested all of my money is worthless... I’ve been robbed three times by refugees who chased after me with knives.” Obviously, Mina’s complaints can never justify the fire-bombing of innocent migrants and their children.
And it is absolutely essential that our political leaders make this clear. But at the same time the situation in neighborhoods such as Shapira, Kiryat Shalom and Abu Kabir is untenable. These places are cultural time bombs.
There are no easy solutions to the problem. One important step being taken is the building of a barrier on the Sinai border.
But the fence, which is expected to be completed by March 2013, will not solve the problem of those migrants already living in Israel. A major effort must be made to repatriate those migrants who do not face persecution in their home country. Since the creation of South Sudan last July, migrants from that part of the world can no longer claim to be asylum-seekers.
Unfortunately, an initiative according to which South Sudanese were offered $1,300 and a free plane ticket if they agreed to return failed miserably. Only a few had cooperated by the March 31 deadline.
In addition to renewed efforts to repatriate South Sudanese and others, steps should also be taken to better integrate into Israeli society those who are truly asylum-seekers. Forbidding them to work and depriving them of basic social services only exacerbates the situation.
While there is absolutely no excuse for the despicable attacks, we must acknowledge that there is a migrant crisis, and not just in south Tel Aviv. Ignoring it is not an option.