Drop in Migrant Numbers Means Tent City No Longer Needed, Document Says

In June and July of 2011, 3,000 migrants entered Israel illegally,that number dropped to about 1,300 for the same two months of this year.

Due to a steep drop in the number of African migrants illegally crossing the border from Egypt in recent months, there is now adequate space for them in existing detention facilities, without building a planned new tent city for them in the Negev.

The data on the number of migrants crossing the border comes from an internal document drafted by the Ramat Negev Regional Council, which Haaretz has obtained. The council's figures are based on reports from the Interior Ministry's Population, Immigration and Border Authority.

In June and July of 2011, about 3,000 migrants entered Israel illegally. But the number dropped to about 1,300 for the same two months of this year. This shows the new fence now being built along the Egyptian border is effective, the council document stated.

The council concluded that because of the drop in the number of migrants, there is no longer any need to build the planned tent city, which was slated for its jurisdiction.

"The tent city was born in sin in a hasty and superfluous decision, without a plan, without permits and by using 1950s-era regulations to secure an exemption [from planning requirements], and without taking into consideration the detention center's humanitarian conditions, its neighbors or the environment," charged Shmuel Reifman, chairman of the regional council. "No less serious is the fact that the government deceived the National Planning and Building Council: In contrast to its explanations about a growing wave of employment-seeking migrants, in reality there has been a significant drop in the number of infiltrators."

There are currently 11,900 available places in existing detention facilities, including 1,000 at Ketziot Prison, but not including 4,000 slots the initial stage of the new tent city will contain, the document states.

Thus even as the government is cutting spending and raising taxes, it is wasting NIS 80 million on an unnecessary detention facility, Reifman said.