Only 10 African migrants enter Israel in January

Influx of asylum-seekers halted, interior minister says, but mission not complete while thousands still reside in the country

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)

Israel’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority announced on Thursday that it had detained 10 African migrants trying to enter the country from Egypt in January. The number of migrants crossing the Egyptian border into Israel plummeted in the last few months — from roughly 2,000 in May to 37 in December.

Israel is cracking down on African migrants sneaking into the country looking for work or refuge from dire conditions in their home countries. There are no official numbers, but officials estimate that tens of thousands of people have flowed in from Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea and other African countries in the last several years.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has railed against the migrants and led drives to have them repatriated, credited the change to the completion of a fence along the Egyptian border, the ministry’s “uncompromising implementation” of the Infiltration Law, the introduction of detention facilities, and enforcement activity by the immigration authority.

Yishai added in a statement put out by his ministry that the mission wasn’t complete yet and, having stopped the influx of migrants, he intended to repatriate those who reside in Israel and are “putting the Zionist enterprise in peril.”

According to international law, asylum-seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, who make up roughly 90 percent of the migrants, cannot be forcibly repatriated to their war-torn counties of origin.

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