Justice Ministry: 10,000 Migrants Infiltrated Israel Since Start of 2010

Israel's strong economy and its proximity to Africa encourages illegal immigration, government official says.

Some 10,000 people have infiltrated Israel's borders looking for work since the beginning of 2010, a Justice Ministry official said Sunday.

Ethiopian infiltrators- David Bachar- Sep. 12, 2005
David Bacher

This figure was presented at a conference at The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya dealing with Israel's immigration policy and the issue of infiltrators and refugees in the country. The conference was attended by Interior Minister Eli Yishai and opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman MK Tzipi Livni.

"The state of Israel is currently revising its immigration laws, and this process can still be influenced," said Justice Ministry Director General Guy Rothkopf.

"Any debate over issues of immigration must take into account Israel's unique characteristics, such as its status as a Jewish state and our complex relations with our neighbors and the security challenges they present," said Rothkopf.

"Furthermore, Israel's proximity to the African continent, along with its advantageous economic situation, encourages migration from Africa."

According to Rothkopf, Since the beginning of 2010, 10,000 migrants infiltrated Israel, an average of 1,000 a month. "These numbers include only those who were caught," said Rothkopf.

The Ministerial Forum for Immigration, headed by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has begun a process of regulating legislation dealing with the issue of illegal immigration, said Rothkopf.

A senior source in Jerusalem said last week that Israel was prepared to renew its offer to pay millions of dollars to any African or Western country willing to absorb the influx of illegal migrants.

The Foreign Ministry has already held a round of talks on the matter with a number of states with whom Israel has diplomatic relations, but has not yet received a sufficient response to the request. Even those states willing to take in migrant workers are not prepared to absorb the numbers of people presented by Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week also ordered the defense establishment to begin immediate construction of a barrier on the Egyptian border and said he expected a report on the matter within a month.

The works were due to start in July, but following disagreements on budgeting have been delayed by over three months.