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African migrant walks with suitcase in south Tel Aviv 370 (R.(Photo by: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )
Labor proposes African migrant bill
“The Jewish people has experienced persecution and pogroms, and it is our special duty to lend a hand and help.”
A Labor Party bill submitted this week said the law must define that status of all refugees and decide how many refugees Israel can accept in order to deal with the issue of illegal African migration.

The new legislation is the culmination of efforts that began last summer, when now-MK Moshe Mizrahi, a former commander of the Serious and International Crime Unit of the Israel Police, led a committee in Labor to propose a policy to deal with the influx of African migrants.

“The Jewish people has experienced persecution and pogroms, and it is our special duty to lend a hand and help refugees of genocide,” Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich said. “This does not contradict protecting the sovereignty of the State of Israel and our interests; the opposite is true. What causes damage is the fact that Israeli governments did not create a set policy on the topic of refugees and work immigrants and anchor it in law.”

Mizrahi explained that Israel is a civilized, modern country, but it lacks a proper immigration policy and avoids adopting the principles of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which Israel was one of the first countries to sign.

“Time and again, like now, Israel is harshly criticized for its behavior toward migrants and refugees, and breaking international law,” Mizrahi said. “The Interior Ministry’s behavior is scandalous and must be immediately fixed.”

According to Yacimovich, Israel’s behavior toward African migrants has increased international criticism, but Labor’s bill will make up for the government’s carelessness by clearly defining migrant groups and determining long-term action.

The government has yet to propose a policy for dealing with migration, with two of the most urgent issues on the matter being an examination of refugee claims for all asylum seekers to determine their status, and providing those who remain in Israel with legal work visas in order to avoid social issues.

Labor’s bill would establish a system to decide each migrant’s status within a certain amount of time. This way, the government will be able to take in a limited number of refugees – up to 2,000 per year – that are recognized under international law, and send those who do not match the definition of refugee back to their home country.

If more than 2,000 refugees enter Israel, the government will have to work with other countries that can absorb them.

Labor also recommends that the government decrease the number of foreign workers it brings in each year and deport those who are in Israel without a work visa, so that refugees can receive vocational training in farming and construction instead.

This proposal has been suggested many times by activists in recent years, but has yet to be implemented.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.
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