Israeli Panel on African 'Infiltrators': UN Positions Aren't Binding

A state-appointed task force on refugees and asylum-seekers points the finger at human rights organizations and calls for detaining individuals who are eligible for protection if they have not formally applied for asylum.

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

An Israeli task force appointed last summer by Interior Minister Eli Yishai has submitted its recommendations for "solving the problem of border infiltrators." Some of the conclusions of the team, which is headed by University of Haifa Geography and Environmental Studies Professor Arnon Soffer, contravene both the directives of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and promises made by the state to Israeli courts.

The committee recommended frequent monitoring of conditions in the refugees' countries of origin and rejected the blanket acceptance of the positions of the United Nations on asylum seekers. It also suggested that Israeli officials should visit Eritrea and Sudan in a bid to arrange for the removal of collective protection from deportation for these countries' citizens. The panel proposed studying the route taken by asylum-seekers "in order to stop or obstruct movement from the countries of origin or countries along the route."

Additional recommendations include detaining migrants who are eligible for protection but have not applied for refugee status and sending additional refugees in Israel to detention centers.

The task force said human rights organizations were part of the problem, and called for a policy to deal with representatives of such groups that wait for migrants on the Israeli side of the border with Egypt.

The committee also recommended enforcing prohibitions against hiring migrants.

With regard to media coverage of the migrant/infiltrator issue, the task force recommended conveying to journalists the message that "migrant workers constitute a social, security and economic burden; they impede the ability of the country’s law enforcement agencies to function properly; they consume an immense quantity of resources at the expense of Israel’s socioeconomically weak population groups; they increase the crime rate; and they undermine Israel’s image in the world.”

Soffer said: “If Israel does not enclose itself with mighty walls and if it does not defend itself with absolute determination, it will simply evaporate until it will vanish completely.”

The future of the recommendations, which have been submitted to the interior minister of what is in fact a caretaker government, is unclear. It will be up to the next interior minister to decide.

In addition to Soffer, the task force includes Maj. Gen. (res.) Yom Tov Samia, former GOC Southern Command in the Israel Defense Forces; retired judge Sara Frisch, formerly a senior official in the State Attorney's Office; Maj. Gen. (ret.) Berty Ohayon, former head of the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority and of the Israel Police operations division; former magistrate's court judge Arye Sharabi and attorney Ron Roguin.

African refugees sitting behind a border fence after they attempted to cross illegally from Egypt into Israel as Israeli soldiers stand guard near the border with Egypt.Credit: AP

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