Netanyahu: Protests and Strikes Won't Work, African Migrants Will Be Expelled

PM says Israel is committed to expel all illegal 'infiltrators'; African migrants protest for second day against Israeli policy of arrests, imprisonment, and expulsion.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that the protest measures taken by African migrants would not do them any good and that he and his government intend to continue with their policies.

"I'd like to make clear that protests and strikes won't help," Netanyahu said on the recent protest by African migrants. "As we were able to stem the illegal infiltration of our borders, we are steadfast in our commitment to evict those who entered before we closed the border."

"I would like to clarify that we aren't talking about refugees with whom we deal according to international treaties; we are discussing illegal migrant workers, who will be brought to justice," Netanyahu continued. "During 2013, we deported 2,600 infiltrators, which is six times more than we did the previous year. Next year we will deport more – This is our commitment and we are acting according to it."

Earlier on Monday thousands of African migrants marched from Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv to the embassies of the United States and other countries, continuing the protest that began Sunday.

They are demanding foreign governments exert pressure on Israel to recognize them as refugees, stop arresting them and free those imprisoned.

Some of the embassies they marched to include France, Britain and Canada. They also marched to the United Nations Refugee Agency, waving Eritrean flags and holding signs saying "No More Prison" and "Freedom."

The migrants, many employed in menial jobs, began a three-day strike Sunday to protest Israeli government policy. Tens of thousands of African migrants went on strike on Sunday, disrupting the normal operation of many businesses, primarily restaurants, cafes, hotels, and cleaning services.

Also on Monday, Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar told Ynet that he wass not impressed with all the crying and complaining by business owners whose employees were on strike. "With all due respect to the restaurant and café owners in crisis or those whose cleaning staff didn't show up, this will not determine Israel's national policy. On the contrary, let's think about those Israelis who have lost their jobs."

"Garages in Jaffa used to employ Arab workers not African infiltrators, and Eilat hotels used to employ recently discharged soldiers," Sa'ar added. "It may be hard to adapt, it's possible you can employ people for substandard conditions. I recommend everyone try and maintain labor rights by employing people humanely, instead of preaching to the state."

African migrants hold signs during a protest at Rabin SquareCredit: Reuters
African migrants protest Israel's expulsion bill in central Tel Aviv on January 5, 2014.
Israel has come under fire for trying African migrants by number and not name.
African migrants protest Israel's expulsion bill in central Tel Aviv on January 5, 2014.
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African migrants protest Israel's expulsion bill in central Tel Aviv on January 5, 2014.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
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Israel has come under fire for trying African migrants by number and not name. Credit: Daniel Bar-On
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African migrants protest Israel's expulsion bill in central Tel Aviv on January 5, 2014.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
African migrants protest Israel's expulsion bill in central Tel Aviv on January 5, 2014.

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