Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Friday that he would act decisively against illegal migrants and that their repatriation or deportation to a third country is a national mission.
Yishai, speaking in an interview with Israel Radio, estimated that at least 60,000 Eritrean asylum seekers and 40,000 individuals from other countries remain in Israel.
He said construction of a detention facility will soon be completed and migrants from south Tel Aviv, Eilat, Arad and other cities will be transferred there. He reiterated the fact that the detention facilities for holding illegal migrants will provide appropriate living conditions, food, and adequate medical services.
Yishai said he hoped that the immigration authorities will be accorded policing powers in order to make enforcement of the law more efficient.
On Thursday the Immigration and Borders Authority announced that the 1,500 South Sudanese residing in Israel must leave the country within a week. Any who do so voluntarily in the next seven days will receive a government-funded ticket and monetary grant to facilitate their return.
Following a Jerusalem District Court ruling Thursday morning lifting a ban on the deportation of South Sudanese migrants, the authority said nothing bars the enforcement of the prohibition against employing or housing Sudanese migrants.
Refugee aid organizations have decided not to appeal the decision of to allow the repatriation of Southern Sudanese asylum seekers.
Yishai’s statement followed an emergency ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that convened Thursday and set out a four-part plan to solve the “grave problem” of African migrants in Israel.
Netanyahu met with Yishai, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, and representatives from the IDF, Israel Police, and Israeli Prison Services.
The prime minister’s “emergency plan for dealing with migrants” set “completion of the fence as quickly as possible and sealing the gaps where the fence is incomplete” as top priority. Thereafter, the government will construct detention facilities and expand existing ones to hold thousands more detainees.
Until the fence is fully constructed, Netanyahu said that migrants illegally crossing Israel’s borders must be transported directly to the detention facilities. A legal framework for punishing employers of illegal immigrants must also be established, he said.
Netanyahu added that Yishai would attend to the removal of illegal migrants and that Aharonovitch, aided by a detachment of Border Police, would deal with the arrest of migrant criminals in south Tel Aviv.
There are currently approximately 35,000 migrants from Eritrea living in Israel, and 15,000 from Sudan. Over the past month, tensions have been running particularly high between Israelis and illegal African migrants, resulting in large demonstrations and occasionally degenerating into violence, primarily in the Hatikvah neighborhood in south Tel Aviv.