IDF Shuts Unit Dealing With African Migrants as Fewer Cross Border

In July, only one migrant crossed into Israel from Sinai illegally, authorities say; Last July, 282 did.

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The Israel Defense Forces has closed down the unit that detained migrants at the Egyptian border and transferred them to the prison service, now that the number of migrants has greatly decreased.

The unit, a Military Police unit consisting of reservists and regular army troops, had been operating since 2011, but the completion of the Sinai border fence has dramatically lowered the number of illegal migrants.

According to the Military Police website, the soldiers underwent seven weeks of training and worked with the Israel Police, the Interior Ministry and the Shin Bet security service.

Also, an intelligence unit responsible for questioning migrants has ended its duties in the south.

According to the migration authorities, 36 African migrants entered Israel illegally from January to July this year. In July, one migrant entered illegally, though he has returned to his home country, the authorities say.

By comparison, in July last year, 282 African migrants crossed illegally into the country; in 2011 the figure was 1,659.

According to a report in the IDF magazine Bamahane, the soldiers from the special unit have been reassigned to other duties, and its commander, a major, has been released from the army.

Investigators from unit 504, an intelligence unit that handles agents and interrogates prisoners, collected intelligence on whether any of the migrants had links to terror groups. The IDF says the unit’s reservists carried out this work when the number of illegal migrants began to grow.

“The need declined to interrogate infiltrators in the Intelligence Corps and for the unit that accompanies infiltrators in the Southern Command,” a military official said, noting that since the latter unit closed up shop in May, only eight illegal migrants have entered the country.

Israel's new border fence, near Kadesh Barnea on the Egyptian border.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz
Eritrean migrants outside Israel's southern perimeter. September 5, 2012.

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