Israelis Being Terrorized by Immigrants, Top Diplomat Says

Right and left-wing lawmakers debate the fate of African asylum seekers to be expelled in a Knesset discussion on Israel's deportation policy

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Tzipi Hotovely speaks at the Knesset on Monday, February 19.
Tzipi Hotovely speaks at the Knesset on Monday, February 19.Credit: אוליבייה פיטוסי
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Israelis are "living under terrorism by migrants," Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Monday. Speaking to the State Control Committee of the Knesset on expelling African asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, Hotovely repeated that sentiment several times and added that she is not going to apologize for it.

The state fulfills the conditions it undertook in the Supreme Court, Hotovely told the parliamentarians. Hotovely is the highest ranking official at the Foreign Ministery, a portfolio held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"These are very safe countries. Safe countries with regimes that enable a high standard of living to be maintained," she said, noting that because of "confidentiality" she couldn't state which countries she meant.

One of the residents of South Tel Aviv at the Knesset discussion on February 19, 2018.Credit: אוליבייה פיטוסי

"In this discussion, we are dealing with labor migrants," Hotovely said, then addressed committee chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union): "There is a terrible story about the residents of south Tel Aviv" [where the population of asylum seekers predominately live]. "You know exactly how much suffering the citizens of the State of Israel living under terrorism by migrants are experiencing," Hotovely said.

She said the resolution to deport Eritreans and Sudanese was one of the more important ones made by the government, adding that the people facing expulsion are "obviously labor migrants, about whom there is no question."

On the same subject, deputy attorney general for international law, Roy Schöndorf, and National Security Council Adviser Gil Avriel, declined to categorically state that the agreements Israel reached with Rwanda and Uganda to accept expelled migrants are being implemented in full.

"We have received a lot of correspondence in recent months and weeks from organizations making various claims, including about the way the arrangements are being carried out," he said. "We are taking these letters seriously."

Yacimovich complained that nobody is monitoring the implementation of the agreements. Schöndorf answered that the state conducts itself in compliance with the supervisory arrangements it presented in court, which ruled that if indeed implemented, the arrangements are satisfactory. He added that it is the state's duty to persistently examine its own monitoring arrangements and assure they are carried out.

Further into the discussion, Yacimovich said "You know perfectly well that there is no monitoring whatsoever over implementation."

Schöndorf said he could not agree: "There might be thinking that supervision is not satisfactory, but I wouldn't say there is none."

Yacimovich said she feels the topic of monitoring is being revisited, adding that she suspects deportations will be postponed, and that with heaven's help might be canceled outright.

Two weeks before, Hotovely herself was taped at a Likud meeting saying that "We have no way and no means to keep track of people" sent to third countries. Today, Monday, her message to the committee was the exact opposite: "I have been told by everybody responsible for the topic that there is supervision as required," Hotovely said.

"Might [the supervision], even so, require some improvement?" Yacimovich inquired.

"Indeed, the supervision will be stronger," Hotovely answered.

Yacimovich told the committee members that the security sub-committee of the Control Committee would be discussing certain aspects of the asylum seekers issue that were confidential and could not be brought up at this meeting.

In May, the state comptroller is slated to publish two reports on the asylum seekers in Israel, one studying how the state handled asylum requests from 2009 to 2017. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already been given copies of the two reports.

In 2009 alone, 61,000 asylum requests were made - of which 15,000 were from Eritreans and Sudanese - said Yossi Edelstein, head of the enforcement and foreigners desk at the Population and Migration Authority, at the meeting. About 8,000 of these Eritreans and Sudanese are still waiting for the state's answer – and only 11 have been recognized as refugees by Israel.

Asked how he explains the low proportion of recognition, compared with other western countries, Edelstein said that Israel's policy for the last 10 years has been not to expel anybody: "You could say here they gave 100%."

Michal Rozin and Mozi Raz of Meretz said they visited Rwanda and Uganda a week and a half ago, and the agreements with Israel are not being honored: the refugees arriving there remain stateless, invisible and unregistered. Nobody in Rwanda or Uganda noticed any Israeli supervision, they said, and if anybody had tried to supervise, they would have seen that the agreements had been "completely violated".

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