Israeli Immigration Cops Luring Foreign Workers With Phony Job Offers

Hotline for Migrant Workers says it will file a complaint over the arrests with the Civil Service Commission.

Inspectors from the Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Administration have begun impersonating prospective employers in an effort to apprehend illegal foreign workers. The inspectors have arranged meetings with the migrants, ostensibly to discuss employment. On at least two occasions, when the migrants arrived, they were arrested.

The method was used last week in apprehending migrants from the Ivory Coast who were released two days later. In that instance, a man who identified himself as Sharon made contact with Laji Jawara, an Ivory Coast native who is married to an Israeli woman, asking for his help in finding 18 people to do construction work at a site in Ashdod at NIS 30 per hour for several months.

Jawara - Bar-On - 2.2012
Daniel Bar-On

The caller reportedly promised to pay the prospective employees' transportation costs to get to the building site. When Jawara and the group of 18 arrived at the meeting place, they were confronted by about 30 Interior Ministry immigration police officers equipped with handcuffs.

Haaretz has learned that Sharon, the man who initiated the contact, is Sharon Elezra of the immigration police. "They stood there waiting for us," said Jawara. "People got scared but they cooperated to avoid a mess. They inspected people's documents and took us to Be'er Sheva. I was released and all the others were transferred to Givon prison (near Ramle)."

For its part, the Population Administration said in response: "It is not our habit to involve the media or provide explanations with respect to our enforcement methods."

Due to unrest in the Ivory Coast, migrants from that country had been given protection from deportation, but an improvement in the situation there led the Israeli Population Administration to revoke that blanket protection as of the beginning of this month. The change was announced on January 1 and migrants were given until the end of the month to leave Israel. Immigration authorities announced that those Ivory Coast migrants who did not leave voluntarily would be deported.

About 500 Ivory Coast nationals filed court cases seeking an extension to arrange for their departure from Israel. In one such case, involving about 130 migrants, a restraining order was issued barring their expulsion until the case was fully considered. Of those arrested in Ashdod, eight were released because they had court cases pending.

The migrant aid organization Hotline for Migrant Workers said it would file a complaint over the arrests with the Civil Service Commission. The executive director of the organization, Reut Michaeli, said the method recalls the Holocaust era, "when people were put on vehicles in groups on a pretext and false promises of good employment. We don't deny that the immigration police are tasked with locating illegal residents, but the goal doesn't justify any means."

In another case in December, an immigration inspector contacted a migrant from Nigeria whose asylum request was pending and offered her employment doing cleaning chores at his house in Ashdod. The woman, Marie Ezzo, sent her 3-year-old son off to nursery school and went to the address she was given in Ashdod. On her arrival she was arrested, even though she claims she told authorities her son had no other family in Israel and no one to pick him up at nursery school.

She said she was only able to make a brief call to immigration lawyers from the non-profit "We Are Refugees." After they made contact with immigration authorities, Ezzo was released in the middle of the night. In response to Ezzo's case, the Population Administration acknowledged that she was detained in Ashdod and was released after her case was reviewed.