Polls: Majority of Israelis support deportation of illegal migrants

Africans in Israel. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

While the Israeli government’s decision to deport Africans who illegally entered the country has been challenged on the international stage, polls demonstrate a majority of Israelis support this policy.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A new poll published by the Israeli Democracy Institute (IDI) and Tel Aviv University shows that two thirds of the Israeli population supports the government’s policy to expel unlawful entrants to the country. Forty-five percent of those polled said they were “very supportive,” while 21% said they “certainly supported” it. Only 24% were “certainly” or “very” opposed.

Six hundred people, including both Arabs and Jews, were queried as to their views on the subject, and the left-right divide was clear to see. Broken down by political affiliation, 78% of Likud and more right-wing parties supported the policy, while only 35% of Labor and centrist voters agreed with them. Among the most left-wing voters, this number dropped to 25%.

Israel Hayom commissioned a similar poll in January, surveying 500 Jewish Israelis. Conducted by the New Wave Research Institute, 58% said they supported the deportation policy, while 23% said that they disagreed. The remainder had no opinion. The paper reported that the poll also revealed that 51% of respondents believed illegal migrants were in Israel only seeking work, while 37% thought that they were genuinely seeking asylum, and 12% said they did not know.

The government maintains that most migrants came to Israel to better their lives economically, not because they are fleeing persecution, and that every country has the right to uphold its immigration laws. A High Court decision last August agreed that it was lawful to deport the refugees as long as they went willingly and that the third country receiving them was safe.

On Sunday, Israeli authorities sent out thousands of deportation notices to single, working-age, male Eritrean and Sudanese refugees, telling them they had 60 days to leave for an unnamed African country, with a “stable government” that has “developed tremendously over the last decade and has absorbed thousands of returning residents as well as migrants from various African countries.” This country is widely believed to be Rwanda. Their flight will be free, and they will be given $3,500 as they leave to help them restart their lives.

Protestors have maintained that the government is barely trying to examine if the asylum-seekers have a case, with thousands of requests backlogged, and that of the few that have been checked, only 11 people have been granted refugee status.

The IDI poll addressed this point, asking if the authorities should immediately examine all the Sudanese and Eritrean requests to remain in Israel, and allow those whose requests are found to be justified to remain. Half of the respondents (50%) said yes, while 43% said no.

Many of those who oppose the deportations, including Jewish organizations outside of Israel, have based their view on the reasoning that since the nations of the world turned their backs on Jews who were trying to flee the Holocaust, the Jewish state has a moral obligation to accept these refugees. When asked about this in the Israel Hayom poll, however, only 24% agreed.

Batya Jerenberg :