Survey: Most Israelis distinguish between migrants and asylum-seekers

Despite sympathy for asylum-seekers, Israelis lack tolerance for economic migrants largely due to an upsurge in violent crime.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Amid the ongoing governmental battles with the court system and arguments over how to classify those who have crossed Israel’s southern border from Africa, a new survey shows more sympathy on the part of Israelis for asylum-seekers than for migrants who have made the long trek to look for work.

The legal battles and public debate have been waging for years over Israel’s international obligations up against the argument of fearing for the small country’s socio-economic fabric. At times the debate has become ugly with accusations of racism but also with concerns over an upsurge in violent crimes, particularly in south Tel Aviv.

The poll conducted for the Center for International Migration and Integration shows that 66% of the Israeli public distinguishes between migrants and asylum-seekers, with the latter gaining more understanding, though the level of tolerance for both sectors of the population remains low. The center says it is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to assisting Israel in meeting its migration challenges.

It says that the survey shows that 59% of those questioned wish to find arrangements to accommodate asylum-seekers for specific periods of times in various arrangements.

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday froze the state’s plan to expel hundreds of migrants from Congo by January 5, pending hearing arguments on the issue. Several NGOs filed a petition to the court on Sunday, asking it to block the state from expelling the Congolese migrants who have lived in the state for some 15 years. In October, the state removed the temporary protected status that it had given hundreds of Congolese nationals for over a decade.

This is one of the cases in which the disagreement exists over the classification of the people involved.  The petition to the court includes several accounts from international sources showing that the situation in the Congo is highly volatile and could turn at any time into civil war, and therefore, even if coming to Israel to look for work, these people should not be returned to their place of origin.