Interior minister to present new plan to keep out ‘infiltrators’

Interior minister to present new plan to keep out ‘infiltrators’

After original proposal rejected by court, government seeks ‘conventional and legal ways’ to end unwanted African immigration

African immigrants seen at a detention facility located in the south of Israel. August, 2012. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
African immigrants seen at a detention facility located in the south of Israel. August, 2012. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Thursday that he will present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a new plan to curb illegal African immigration to Israel. The previous proposal was rejected by the Supreme Court.

“I will present the prime minister with an action plan, compiled in the past month, containing the steps we must take to protect the country’s borders and citizens,” Sa’ar pledged during a meeting with the prime minister and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.

“The concept according to which a fence alone will stop people who walk thousands of kilometers and spend their money in order to secure a better future for themselves is detached from reality. New legislation is needed to respond to the situation that has been created in the wake of the High Court of Justice ruling. In the struggle against illegal migration, we must take clear and urgent action because the future of our country is at stake. In the plan that I have presented, there are components that will allow us to deal with the phenomenon,” Sa’ar said.

The interior minister also discussed how other Western countries, including Australia and Switzerland, are dealing with illegal immigration.

There are more than 50,000 African migrants currently in Israel, with a concentration in southern Tel Aviv. Ninety percent of the immigrants come from Eritrea and Sudan.

In September, the High Court of Justice deemed unconstitutional the proposed “infiltrator law”, which would have allowed the state to detain infiltrators, as illegal migrants are called in Israel, for up to three years without a formal trial. The court ruled that each case must now be examined individually, and set a 90-day deadline for the process.

Sa’ar promised at the time that the Interior Ministry would begin to investigate legislative responses to the ruling.

Though the detention, and, in some cases, expulsion of African migrants by the Israel has been criticized as inhumane, the government has had to deal with palpable anger from the residents of south Tel Aviv over the influx of migrants.

Residents of the working-class neighborhoods where many Africans live regularly complain of street crime as a result of the migrants, including two rape incidents. Locals carried signs at a number of protests over the past few months reading ”We are refugees in our own neighborhoods,” and “High Court judges — we are the ones who are jailed without trial.”

The frustration bubbled over into a violent protest in May 2012 that saw a mob vandalize African stores and smash the windows of a car containing African passengers.

Politicians have also sparked controversy for inflammatory statements against African migrants. Likud MK Miri Regev famously called Sudanese migrants “a cancer in our body,” at a gathering in South Tel Aviv last year.

Netanyahu said he was determined to find a solution to the problem that would pass muster at the Supreme Court. 

“We will continue to strive to completely stop the arrival of illegal migrants in conventional and legal ways,” the prime minister promised.

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