African migrants rile Israel
Warning that “illegal infiltrators flooding the country” were threatening the security and identity of the Jewish state.
“If we don’t stop their entry, the problem that currently stands at 60000 could grow to 600000 and that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” he said at a Cabinet meeting on Sunday. “This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity.”
Israel’s population is 7.8-million.
Netanyahu’s comments follow media reports of rising crime, including two gang rapes, in southern Tel Aviv, where many African migrants are concentrated. But Micky Rosenfeld, spokesperson for the Israeli police, said the overall crime rate in Israel had fallen. There had been one alleged rape of a teenage girl connected to the migrant community, for which three suspects were in custody, he said.
Yohanan Danino, the Israeli police chief, said migrants had to be permitted to work to discourage petty crime.
“The community needs to be supported in order to prevent economic and social problems,” said Rosenfeld.
But Interior Minister Eli Yishai rejected such a move and said: “Why should we provide them with jobs? I’m sick of the bleeding hearts, including politicians. Jobs would settle them here, they’ll make babies, and that offer will only result in hundreds of thousands more coming over here.”
Yishai repeated an earlier call for all migrants to be jailed pending deportation. “I want everyone to be able to walk the streets without fear or trepidation … The migrants are giving birth to hundreds of thousands and the Zionist dream is dying,” he told Army Radio. Last week he said most migrants were involved in criminal activity.
According to police data quoted by the Hotline for Migrant Workers, the crime rate among foreigners in Israel was 2.04% in 2010 compared with 4.99% among Israelis.
More than 13 500 people entered Israel illegally in 2010, of whom almost two-thirds were Eritrean and one-third Sudanese. Three were granted refugee status by Israel, rising to six last year. Human rights organisations say more than 50 000 asylum seekers and migrants have entered Israel illegally since 2005.
Most are smuggled across the Israel-Egypt border by Bedouin tribes. Israel is building a vast steel fence across 180km of the Sinai desert to deter people trafficking and the smuggling of drugs and weapons. The barrier would be completed, bar one small section, by October, Netanyahu said. Israel is also building the world’s largest detention centre for asylum seekers and illegal migrants, capable of holding 11000 people. The centre will receive its first detainees by the end of the year. – © Guardian News & Media 2012