Asylum Seekers in Petah Tikva to Have Power Cut Off as City Seeks to Run Them Out

'Part of our struggle is against these apartment owners who turn this into a business - they buy a number of apartments, divide them and charge outrageous rents for what they provide,' says mayor.

Two Eritrean asylum seekers a square in Petah Tikva, January 17, 2017.
Moti Milrod

The Israel Electric Corporation is going to cut power to dozens of apartments in Petah Tikva that mostly house asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan.

Channel 10 reported Tuesday that the move comes at the request of the Petah Tikva municipality and that Mayor Yitzhak Braverman hopes it will reduce the number of asylum-seekers in the city. Over the past several years the population of asylum seekers in the city has grown considerably because those released from the Holot holding facility in the south are forbidden to live and work in Tel Aviv.

Two weeks ago Braverman announced that he planned to take action. “Local police are doing all they can and the commanders are utilizing all the powers at their disposal but the change in foreign workers’ migration patterns to Petah Tikva and nearby cities requires an immediate response to the problems that have resulted. It is the police’s obligation to assure residents’ quiet, safe lives without being threatened by foreign workers,” he wrote on his Facebook page. 

“I warned that if the authorities don’t make every effort on this matter then the municipality will have to do as it sees fit,” he added. “The residents’ level of tolerance is dropping given the apathy of the enforcement authorities. I don’t plan to support this apathy and if necessary I will prevent the entrance of foreign workers to the city by force.”

The mayor wrote the post a few days after a teenage girl was attacked in her home, allegedly by an asylum seeker from Sudan. In November a Sudanese asylum seeker was beaten to death by a group of youths after he approached a group of girls and tried to talk to them.

Braverman told Haaretz on Tuesday, “There’s a phenomenon in Petah Tikva and in other cities of illegally dividing apartments, which constitutes a great danger and undercuts the quality of life of other residents, of the surrounding area, and also of those who live in [these apartments]. Many of these apartments, which don’t offer normal living conditions, become a draw for foreign workers in Petah Tikva. Part of our struggle is against these apartment owners who turn this into a business – they buy a number of apartments, divide them and charge outrageous rents for what they provide.”

He added, “We’re not going after the foreign workers. That’s not our objective here. We’re confronting this phenomenon.” He continued, “We have a problem with foreign workers who break the law, who violate immigration laws, those who make residents feel insecure. That’s one story. On the other hand, we have the story of the divided apartments, which doesn’t apply only to foreign workers. It applies to the weakest populations – foreign workers, but not only them; it’s also new immigrants, elderly people with no families, Holocaust survivors. There are bad people who have apartments and make money off the backs of these poor, miserable people.”

He said the municipality and the police had given the IEC a list of 50 divided apartments. “We’re not interested in someone who bought one apartment and divided it. We’re talking primarily about focal points, whole buildings that constitute a real danger. Downtown, near the central bus station, there a concentration.”

Asked whether it’s right to cut off power in the middle of the winter, he replied, “We have to put an end to this. In the summer it’s no good, in the winter it’s no good, in the spring it’s no good. This phenomenon isn’t good; we have to deal with it.”