Israel Police Chief: Letting Migrants Work Would Reduce Crime

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino's statement, made two days after he toured an area of Tel Aviv where many migrants live, contradicts government policy.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino contradicted government policy on Friday when he called for migrants and asylum seekers to be given work permits, saying that this would greatly reduce crime.

Danino made the statement two days after touring the area of Tel Aviv's old central bus station, where many of the migrants live, together with Harel Locker, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office. During the tour, Locker said in Danino's presence that the government would "enforce the law vis-a-vis employers. This is a security and strategic problem."

"We should make sure we are not stopping them from being employed in areas where they really can be employed," replied Danino.

Danino, who was touring the area around Tel Aviv clubs Friday night after midnight, in light of the increase in reported violent crime over the past two weeks, surprised journalists when he made his statement about the migrants, which contradicted both government policy and Locker's statements on Wednesday.

During Danino's and Locker's visit to the area of the old central bus station, including Neveh Sha'anan and Levinsky streets and the police station in that area, Danino told Locker that the crime rate among migrants was gradually rising every year and that he intended to increase the number of police in the area to deal with the problem.

Locker defended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy, saying the government was seeking ways to deport the labor migrants "although there are legal problems," and that by the end of the year there would be thousands more places in the Saharonim detention center in the Negev and in a new detention center.

Danino responded that "There are tens of thousands [of migrants] already here who, if you don't create jobs for them, they will immediately go to crime." The police chief then said that "those that are here already, as long as they are here," should be given work if there is work to be given.

Danino told reporters that if the migrants were given employment, they would go to work every day and would not seek to make a living by stealing. Danino said he believed that granting work permits to the migrants would greatly reduce the crime rate in this group. He said he thought asylum seekers should be given work permits as early as this August.

The Population and Immigration Authority was steaming yesterday over Danino's remarks. "The proposal by Commissioner Danino is a kind of open invitation for hundreds of thousands of infiltrators to reach Israel," an official statement by the authority, issued yesterday, said.

A source in the authority who asked to remain anonymous said Saturday that Danino was in fact trying everything he could to reduce the work of the police, which is responsible for enforcing the law and public order, without considering the outcome that a move like the one he suggests would have for the entire State of Israel.

Danino's statements contradicted statements made by Netanyahu earlier this year. In a lecture to graduates of Israel's National Security College, in February, Netanyahu said the most important issue at hand was completing the border fence between Israel and Sinai.

He also said: "We know there is not enough of a physical barrier and we also have to act against employers by imposing much heavier fines and penalties and we must do what it takes to pass laws against such employers."

Migrants from Africa waiting on line to register as asylum seekers.
Ilan Assayag
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, right, in Tel Aviv.
Tomer Appelbaum