Asylum Seekers' Arrival in North Israel City Sparks Public Outcry

Mayor of Beit She'an vows to fight against city becoming 'Israel's backyard,' after few dozen asylum seekers arrive after release from detention facility.

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Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea after their release from Holot, August 26, 2015.
Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea after their release from Holot, August 26, 2015.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovich

The arrival of a few dozen asylum seekers in Beit She’an over the past few days has raised a storm of protest in the city, including a press release by the municipality proclaiming, “Beit She’an will not be Israel’s backyard.”

The press release notes that “many residents of the city have expressed their fears and worry this week over various reports that some of the infiltrators that have recently been released from their temporary facility have arrived in various outlying cities, including Beit She’an.”

According to the statement, Beit She’an Mayor Rafi Ben-Sheetrit wrote an urgent letter to the Immigration Administration and the commander of the city’s police station, calling on them to take “immediate action to prevent illegal infiltrators from staying in Beit She’an". The mayor noted in the letter that because the asylum seekers were prohibited from going to Eilat or Tel Aviv, “they were trying their luck and infiltrating cities on the periphery, including Beit She’an."

The mayor was quoted as saying in the press release that “the lack of any official status of the infiltrators and the illegality of employing them makes their stay in the city not only unwanted but dangerous.”

The mayor said he would fight the matter alongside the residents of Beit She’an, but also called on residents not to use violence.

One resident wrote on Facebook: “Now in addition to its troubles, [Israel has] criminal infiltrators, Sudanese and Eritreans wanted in their country for war crimes and some are used as weapons by anti-Zionist forces and anti-Semites trying to fight against Israel by flooding it with infiltrators.”

Another posted on her Facebook page: "Don’t show them empathy, they are ingrates and unreliable not to mention diseases that most of the population has, alcoholics.”

Others wrote on their Facebook pages that kibbutzim in the area were supposedly housing its workers in Beit She’an. However, a nearby kibbutz resident told Haaretz that there are foreign workers with permits to work in the kibbutz, but they are housed on the kibbutz.

Organizations assisting the migrants confirmed that a small number of people recently released from the Holot detention center in the Negev have gone to Beit She’an.In response to a query from Haaretz, the municipality said it did not know how many asylum seekers had come to Beit She’an but that a few dozen had arrived over the past week.

“Some are working in kibbutzim and some on a big electric company project on Mount Gilboa. According to rumors we understood that some are living with people who have work permits,” the city’s response added.

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