By: EW News Desk Team 12 December 2011
Israeli will spend $160 million in the upcoming months to secure its borders from African migrants who enter the country illegally, announced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
A large portion of the money will go toward the construction of a security fence along Israel’s border with Egypt, where nearly 2,000 African migrants are smuggled through every month.See the Slide Show >>> A New Look At Human Migration
Since 2006, Israeli officials estimate that some 50,000 Africans, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, have illegally entered the country through its porous border with the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. According to these officials, the overwhelming majority of the migrants were not refugees escaping persecution, but had instead come to Israel to seek better economic opportunities.
Addressing his Cabinet, Netanyahu said the swelling stream of migrants was “a national scourge.”
The Israeli Prime Minister also warned that unless something was done, the country would face an influx of nearly 100,000 illegal immigrants every year.
Yet, some Israelis remained unconvinced by the government’s posturing. Many activists believe that the majority of the Africans arriving in Israel were indeed bona fide refugees and should thus be granted asylum.
The situation has also sparked debate among many Israelis, some of whom fear that the mounting non-Jewish arrivals will compromise the state’s Jewish character, while others argue that the country should have special sensitivity for those fleeing prejudice and conflict, given the nature of the Israeli state itself.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Michaeli said that Israel was a nation of refugees that was established by refugees, and therefore it had an obligation to open its doors to Africans who were fleeing from war and persecution. Other Israelis also recalled how Western countries had turned away Jewish refugees who were trying to escape from the holocaust in Europe during World War II.
The Israeli government, as such, has been careful to position the arrivals as economic, rather than political, migrants.
Netanyahu intends to travel to Africa early next year in order to discuss with its leaders over the possible repatriation of some of the illegal immigrants currently being held in Israel’s detention centres.
Apart from the security fence, Israel also intends to use part of the money to fund the construction of a new detention facility, as well as to extend the period that illegal migrants can be detained to three years. The government also wants to increase policing of companies that hire any illegal workers.First Name
“If need be, we will close businesses so that the enterprise known as the State of Israel does not close,” said Netanyahu after the cabinet meeting on Sunday.