Update on Israel's Migrant Response

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Dec 13 2011

Last week, we profiled Israel’s unfair treatment of African migrants and the illegal steps the government has implemented to deal with asylum seekers.

This week, Israel took further steps to disfranchise refugees and illegal immigrants; the Knesset approved a 2% cut from all ministries to fund measures to repel African migrants. These $167 million initiatives include continuation of the fence along the Egyptian border, as well as the expansion and creation of detention facilities. Migrants may spend anywhere from 60 days to three years in these temporary detention centers.

Potentially even more worrying is Netanyahu’s commitment to visit parts of Africa in the hopes of "returning" migrants. Though his attempts to forcibly repatriate asylum seekers would subject many of them to persecution, the prime minister claims that Israel will continue to protect the “real” refugees. Especially in light of the small percentage of migrants granted asylum, his statement begs the question: how are can “real” refugees - versus economic migrants - be identified, given that even refugees must seek work?

Reut Michaeli, executive director of Israel's Hotline for Migrant Workers, countered Netanyahu’s assertion that most migrants are fraudulent asylum seekers who only come to Israel for employment:

“Across the world, 88 percent of Eritrean migrants who seek asylum are recognized as refugees. I find it very difficult to believe that the ones who come to Israel are any different.”

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East