Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday the phenomenon of African migrants infiltrating the country was a danger to Israel’s national identity. Netanyahu said the number of migrants, which today stands at around 60,000, could increase to 600,000 if untreated and that the “flood of migrants” could negatively influence the Jewish and democratic nature of the state.
Netanyahu said the government was well aware of the plight of citizens worried about the large influx of migrants and mentioned ways his administration was dealing with the problem — “not by wailing, but by deeds.”
In recent weeks, residents of south Tel Aviv have slammed migrants in the area, and the government, over a series of crimes perpetrated by Eritrean and Sudanese migrants.
Netanyahu said that the first solution was to complete a fence being constructed along the Egyptian border — the main route into Israel. He said the fence would be completed by October, except for a small stretch located in a mountainous region near Eilat.
The next steps, according to Netanyahu, are to physically remove those migrants already in the country and set harsh penalties as a disincentive for others.
Over the weekend, Police Chief Yohanan Danino took a different approach. He suggested that a possible solution would be to find jobs for migrants already in the country so they will not turn to crime.
The legal status of most migrants in Israel is complicated. Many are asylum seekers by virtue of their nationalities — the countries they come from pose a risk to their return — but are not formally recognized as refugees. As a result, they receive temporary permits to live in the country, but are not legally allowed to work, resulting in widespread poverty.
Last week, Interior Minister Eli Yishai proposed that they be rounded up, given a grant and sent home.