A senior police commander expressed fear that the upcoming deportation of African migrants and asylum seekers from Israel will provoke violent riots that will be hard to contain, urging police to use force to suppress them, Channel 10 reported Monday.
In a recording, Moshe Chico Edri, head of Israel Police’s Tel Aviv district, can be heard saying the scenario that most concerns him is “large-scale violent riots.”
“We have no advantage on them, so the full range of police tools has to be available to the station,” he said. “This means we have to very quickly move on to stun grenades, water cannons, and use of force.”
Edri then tells police officers about a previous incident where force was needed to contain a similar demonstration.
“If you remember, when 400 people surrounded us in a nighttime assault, they almost slaughtered us,” he said. “They take stones, rocks and sticks, and attack you, when the only thing left to do is open live fire.”
It is not clear what sparked Edri’s dire predictions. The migrants have staged dozens of protests, with almost all of them peaceful.
Earlier on Monday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri addressed the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee and said that “false information” was being published about the deportation plan. He said families, women and children would not be expelled from the country, along with anyone who has filed a request for asylum before the end of 2017 and has not received a final response.
Deri noted that more than 5,000 illegal immigrants from European countries were deported in 2017, claiming that the figure refuted accusations of discrimination against Africans.
The issue of African migrants in Israel has drawn increased attention since the Knesset’s approval last month of an amendment to the so-called “Infiltrator’s Law” that paves the way for the forced deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese migrants and asylum seekers starting in March. It also makes legal the indefinite imprisonment of those who refuse to leave voluntarily.
There are approximately 38,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Interior Ministry. About 72 percent are Eritrean and 20% are Sudanese, and the vast majority arrived between 2006 and 2012. Many live in south Tel Aviv, and some residents and activists blame them for rising crime rates and have lobbied the government for their deportation.
The amendment has gained international attention and is fraught with controversy.
Despite criticism of the deportation plan from Israeli rights activists and Jewish communities in the US, a Channel 10 poll released Sunday indicated that a majority of Israelis support expelling African migrants from the country.
Asked if they support the government’s decision to deport the migrants, 56% of respondents said yes, 32% said no, and another 12% said they did not know.
Despite a majority supporting deportation, only 44% said they would be in favor of forcibly removing the migrants, as compared to 46% who said they opposed doing so. Another 10% of respondents said they did not know.
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