Some 200 asylum seekers cross into Israel despite Sinai fence
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Some 200 asylum seekers cross into Israel despite Sinai fence

Border barrier has reduced flow of African migrants from over 10,000 per year to a trickle in 2015

A section of the  border fence between Israel and Egypt, January 2012. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
A section of the border fence between Israel and Egypt, January 2012. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Some 200 African asylum seekers managed to cross Israel’s new border fence with the Egyptian Sinai since the fence’s completion early last year, according to the Ynet news site.

The fence ranges from six to ten meters (20-33 feet) in height. It was constructed at a cost of some NIS 2 billion ($524 million) after the pace of asylum seekers crossing into Israel reached over 10,000 per year in 2012-2013, presaging the flood of migrants reaching Europe over the past year.

The 200 asylum seekers hail from war-torn Sudan and Eritrea. They were caught by IDF forces patrolling on the Israeli side of the border, and were sent to the Saharonim detention facility in the Negev pending a ruling on their asylum status.

Under a new High Court of Justice ruling, that process is now limited to a year, after which the asylum seekers must be released from detention.

African migrants crossing into southern Israel through the border with Egypt in 2010 (photo credit: Assaf Golan/AP)
African migrants crossing into southern Israel through the border with Egypt in 2010 (photo credit: Assaf Golan/AP)

The 220-kilometer (137-mile) fence stretches from Kerem Shalom on the Gaza border to the mountains outside Israel’s southernmost city Eilat.

While the fence drastically reduced the ability of migrants to cross from the Sinai — the only land border between Africa and an OECD-member developed country — it did not entirely stop the phenomenon. Migrants have shifted to attempting to cross the Mediterranean for European nations, with thousands drowning in rickety boats in the process.

The water passage is both dangerous and more expensive, Ynet reports, with migrants paying smugglers some $3,000 to make the passage, compared to just $600-$1,500 to be brought to the Israeli border.

Israeli security forces also occasionally interdict drug smugglers and other criminal elements who attempt to cut holes in the fence or jump over it with ladders.

Egyptian security forces have aided Israel in its efforts to stem the flow of asylum seekers, in part because the smugglers paid by the migrants are often part of criminal or jihadist elements which the Egyptian army is battling in the restive peninsula.

In two separate incidents over the past two months, Egyptian forces opened fire on smugglers ferrying asylum seekers to the border fence, killing some 20 of the migrants.

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