Hotovely came under fire for maintaining that illegals must leave Israel, saying they are “economic migrants” and not refugees, and that many are terrorizing south Tel Aviv.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The Knesset State Control Committee met on Monday to discuss the issue of African asylum seekers in Israel following a court ruling last week stating that Eritreans who came to the country to escape mandatory army service should receive refugee status.
While Yossi Edelstein, head of enforcement and foreign affairs for the Population Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA), said the Interior Ministry was still studying the ruling, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely took a hard line, charging that south Tel Aviv is living under a “reign of terror from illegal migrants.”
“Every sovereign state has the right to deport illegal economic migrants when they arrive at their gates,” Hotovely stated. “They will be deported to very safe countries where there are governments that enable a very high standard of living.”
“They are receiving $3,500. It is a large sum of money, and they can do almost anything they want with it,” she added.
There are approximately 27,000 Eritrean border jumpers in Israel, making up the vast majority of those targeted for deportation to a third country as of April 1 if they do not leave voluntarily. Most of the other migrants are Sudanese. Women, children, the elderly and fathers are not currently in danger of expulsion.
The poorer neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv have become home to a huge number of Africans, and the residents there have complained and demonstrated against their presence due to the subsequent higher rates of violence and sexual assaults that have left them feeling unsafe and yet trapped as their property values have plummeted. This is what Hotovely was referring to in her statements, which aroused the opposition of several left-wing members of the committee.
‘Don’t misuse Holocaust survivors or the Holocaust’
Committee chairperson Shelly Yachimovich cited Jewish history and the Holocaust as a reason to demand that Israel demonstrate more concern for refugees. Hotovely flashed back, “Don’t misuse Holocaust survivors or the Holocaust. This is a discussion about work migrants. I would ask that we call them work migrants,” Ynet reported.
In contrast, Eritreans who came to the committee meeting spoke of the slave-like conditions they either suffered or would suffer in their country’s army, conscription to which is mandatory and lasts for many years. They also testified that it was extremely hard to apply for asylum in Israel as there are few offices that accept applications and hundreds standing on line for the few hours they are open.
Still, between 2009 and 2017, 15,400 people opened files with PIBA, 8,800 of which are still open. The Interior Ministry has stated that those whose claims have not yet been reviewed are not in danger of deportation. However, in all this time, only 11 people have been given refugee status, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrant Workers.
This was another point of contention in the committee, as Yachimovich demanded to know why Israel approves so few, when the European Union has recognized asylum claims from 90% of Eritreans who apply for refugee status and 56% of Sudanese, according to the European Stability Institute.
According to a poll published earlier this month by the Israeli Democracy Institute (IDI) and Tel Aviv University, two thirds of the Israeli population supports the government’s policy to expel illegal migrants.