By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Another UN body is taking Israel to task for purported human rights infringements, this time because of Egyptian callousness.
The latest critique was scripted by the UN High Commission on Refugees and submitted to Israel's Supreme Court in an affidavit backing arguments that Israel violates international law when returning African infiltrators to Egypt within the first 24 hours of their illegal entry and if they are still within 50 kilometers of the border. So far this year, over 200 infiltrators were sent back under what is dubbed the "Hot Return" policy.
This policy is already being challenged in the courts here by the Hotline for Migrant Workers and Tel Aviv University's Refugee Rights Project. Now the UNHCR has chimed in on behalf of the petitioners becauseâ€¦Egypt is heartless towards African infiltrators.
By UNHCR logic, Egyptian ruthlessness requires Israel to admit all migrants whom Egypt rejects. Egyptian attitudes are evidently regarded as immutable facts; different standards are applied to Israel, which is apparently required to compensate for Egyptian harshness.
INTERNATIONAL REGULATIONS indeed specify that refugees are not to be returned to their lands of origin while they still face mortal danger. Egypt, however, is neutral territory and thus a presumed safe-haven. It isn't the migrants' land of origin. The relatively few authentic refugees among the migrants should expect asylum in Egypt no less than in Israel. The vast majority, though, are not refugees. They are economic migrants hailing from conflict-free countries. Israel does not owe them a living any more than Egypt does.
According to the UNHCR, migrants returned to Egypt are liable to be jailed for a year and heavily fined. Yet, here again, if the international community finds this objectionable its complaints ought to be addressed to Egypt. It is bizarre, to say nothing of inequitable, to demand that Israel pay the price for Egyptian conduct.
Perhaps the time has come for those who purportedly have the migrant Africans' interests at heart to demand minimal humanity from conduit countries, like Egypt, via which migrants make their way to Israel - the region's one fully democratic, industrialized western state in which Africans expect European standards of living along with judicial and civic indulgence.
Israel is considered a relatively "soft touch," with the alluring bonus of First World prospects. Migrants may well have good reason to expect our Supreme Court to give them succor, even in the face of vital Israeli interests, an anticipation which doubtlessly draws illegals here in alarming numbers: The IDF recently warned that no less than one million sub-Saharan Africans are poised to trek across Israel's elongated border with Egypt and infiltrate this country.
Israeli urban legend tends to portray all African illegals as "Darfurians," although very few are connected to the genocide-ridden Sudanese region. Many economic migrants are Muslims from countries inimical to Israel and without diplomatic relations with it. Besides the conspicuous security risks, the latent demographic dangers cannot be overstated.
Israel has understandably become another desirable destination for opportunity-seeking Africans, just as many European countries have previously. As gates are slammed shut in Europe, Israel's attractiveness increases. This country, with fewer resources and greater challenges than Europe, therefore finds itself threatened with inundation by populations, which contrary to some of the hype, are not fleeing persecution and whose admirable desire for economic improvement simply cannot be financed by the Jewish state.
ONLY SOME 16,000 Sudanese and Eritreans have applied for asylum here. Full humanitarian consideration is merited in those cases judged genuine. But there are currently some 400,000 foreigners residing here unlawfully. According to official estimates, 700-1,000 Africans gate-crash via Egypt every month; the actual numbers are probably significantly higher. Within a decade, demographers caution, we may find ourselves hosting as many as a million illegal foreigners - or one-seventh of our population.
The UNHCR might not be particularly troubled by this influx; its appeals, and those of other organizations, might even impress the Supreme Court. But the ongoing influx is creating an untenable reality. Israel is being asked to shoulder an unfair and unsustainable burden. And preventative measures, including the erection of an effective barrier-fence on the Egyptian border, are now more indispensable and urgent than ever.
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