We’re on the right track

The government is continuing to look into the possibility of a ‘third party’ country that will agree to host a large number of the illegal residents currently in Israel.

South TA residents protest against African migrants 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
South TA residents protest against African migrants 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the biggest accomplishments of the previous government – and one that has been woefully under-reported – was our successes at halting the decade-old phenomenon of increased illegal infiltration into Israel. The implementation of the amended Prevention of Infiltration Law this month is another step in the right direction.
Together with the government plan to deport those illegal immigrants who are already here, we are providing the citizens of Israel with a comprehensive blueprint for dealing with the problem of illegal infiltration. This will lead to a resolution of this matter over the next few years.
It is important to review how we got to this point. Since 2005, more than 60,000 sub-Saharan Africans have illegally crossed our southern border with Egypt. To our friends aboard this may seem like a small number, but this constituted a real demographic threat for a state of fewer than 8 million people, and to its Jewish and democratic makeup.
The influx of undocumented men into our cities did real damage to the social fabric of our society.
Faced with little prospect for legal employment, and desperate to send money and help their families back home by any means, these illegals infiltrators contributed to a significant increase in crime. While our country was built upon the ethos of caring for those who need it most, it soon became clear that we cannot provide education, health and other social welfare services for these undocumented residents.
The previous Likud government decided to put an end to this matter.
The most important decision we made was to erect a 230-kilometer- long fence along the southern border, leaving only 11 kilometers near Eilat to be completed at a later point. This state-of-the-art barrier has all but eliminated illegal crossing of our border with Egypt. In the first six months of 2013, only 34 people successfully entered Israel illegally from Sinai.
While this is real progress, we realize that there is much work to be done. Last week, three men were caught trying to cross the Egyptian border. Upon arrest by the authorities the men related that they tried to come to Israel because they heard that “there aren’t tough laws against illegal work by foreigners.”
This is why the amended law is vital in acting as an effective deterrence against illegal infiltration. It makes clear to those who hope to take advantage of the only Western society with a land-bridge to Africa, that their arrival here does not ensure a new and easy source of income for their families back home.
We still need to deal with the more than 50,000 illegal immigrants who are already in our urban centers. This is why in November the cabinet approved a plan to raise the financial incentive for those who leave Israel willingly to $3,500.
Simultaneously, we significantly increased the number of government officials and policemen who are enforcing the law and restoring order in the neighborhoods where there are many illegal immigrants.
Finally, the government is continuing to look into the possibility of a “third party” country that will agree to host a large number of the illegal residents currently in Israel.
These steps, together with the amended to the law passed by the Knesset, are part of the comprehensive solution to this problem that I noted above. The Likud government is proud of its track record on this issue and will work tirelessly until there are no more infiltrators crossing our borders and the number of illegal residents in our cities is severely reduced.
I realize that there are many who are uneasy with some of the steps that the government has taken.
None of us likes to see the pictures of civilians being rounded up and placed in government facilities. As a country made up of refugees we are especially sensitive to the plight of those in danger around the world. This is why on numerous occasions the State of Israel has allowed those in real danger to find refuge in the Jewish state. We will continue to do the same in the future.
At the same time, however, we cannot – and will not – allow our laws to be broken and our citizens to be put in danger by those who look to take advantage of the goodwill and the democratic nature of our country.
The writer is deputy defense minister and the author of Israel: The Will to Prevail.