Thousands rally in Tel Aviv in support of illegal migrants

Thousands protested against an Israeli government plan to deport illegal African economic migrants.

By: World Israel News Staff

Thousands of African illegal migrants, so-called asylum seekers, and their local supporters protested on Saturday night against an Israeli government plan to deport them.

Organizers say some 15,000 gathered in front of the Tel Aviv City Hall.

The government says the migrants have to leave the country for an undisclosed African destination in exchange for $3,500 and a plane ticket, or they will be incarcerated.

The Africans, some from Eritrea and Sudan, say they feel at home in Israel while dreading their impending return to Africa.

Israel considers the vast majority of the some 40,000 migrants to be job seekers and says it has no legal obligation to keep them. Women, children, the elderly and fathers are not targeted in this plan.

Critics have called the government plan unethical and a stain on Israel’s image.

Most are not truly asylum seekers

The majority of Africans, in fact, are economic migrants who are seeking a better life in Israel, and most have a safe place to return to and are provided with funds to reestablish themselves. The few who are truly asylum seekers are granted political asylum after proving they meet the criteria.

Between 2009 and 2017, 15,400 people have opened asylum request files with the Population Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA), 8,800 of which are still open. The Interior Ministry has stated that those whose claims have not yet been reviewed will not be deported. However, in all this time, only 11 people have met the criteria and been given refugee status, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrant Workers.

A recent 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.

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 the illegal migrants in question. When asked about this in the poll, only 24 percent agreed.

AP contributed to this report.