Opinion

Israel Ought to Grant the African Asylum-seekers Their Wish

Israel can grant Africans a 10-year visa, during which it will become clear, to them and to us, where they are heading

African asylum seekers march from Holot to the Saharonim Prison in the Negev desert on February 22, 2018.
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

There are close to 35,000 infiltrators from Africa in Israel. This term, infiltrators, is indisputable: These people infiltrated into this country, wishing to find employment and live in an economically developed state. The refugees entitled to our protection, like the asylum-seekers from Darfur, infiltrated. It is our duty to give shelter to the latter, but not to the others, because we are human beings and not only because Israel is a signatory of the convention stipulating that from 1951. Toward the others, work infiltrators, we have no obligation. There’s certainly no obligation to take in work infiltrators from Eastern Europe, who comprise the majority of the work migrants.

A person who flees his country because of a regime that inflicts suffering on all its citizens is not necessarily a refugee. The large majority of infiltrators from Africa came from such states. Those advocating that Israel take them in argue that their return to Eritrea, the origin of most of them, endangers their lives. Not true. Not to mention that the lives of those who return to their country after they left it to find better life conditions are in no danger.

Contrary to the denouncers’ claims, Israel, although it is not obliged to by the convention, is attentive to the issue of human rights in African countries, especially Eritrea. This is why the state undertook before the High Court of Justice not to return the infiltrators from Eritrea to their homeland but to a third country. Israel even gives them money to start a new life where they are taken in. These things must be said against those slandering Israel even in this matter.

No, Israel is not obliged, as all the proclamations and articles claim, to take in the infiltrators from Africa. Yes, it can do so – out of compassion, human sentiment, a desire for internal reconciliation – absorb them temporarily (in any case not all the infiltrators see Israel as their final home). In general, 30,000-35,000 people who integrate in a society of more than eight million are not a burden. With the right absorption they could be an asset. The suffering caused these people, who were abused by the “noble” Bedouins in Sinai, as well as the disruptions Israel has been subjecting them to for many years, justify expunging the infiltration offense.

In the arguments to justify absorbing the infiltrators, I deliberately did not use language comparing African refugees to Jewish ones. Of course I wasn’t comparing – as many mistakenly do – their sad situation to what the Jewish people endured in the Holocaust. That would not only be tantamount to trivializing the Holocaust, it would be emotional manipulation of the most hypocritical kind, not far from Holocaust denial.

Every state that takes in foreigners, certainly from the West, puts them through prolonged suitability tests. Israel can grant Africans a 10-year visa, during which it will become clear, to them and to us, where they are heading. To enable them to live a dignified, creative life here, Israel must set up an absorption system for them – volunteers aren’t enough – with statutory powers and make plans for their employment, education, health, housing and countrywide distribution. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it thoroughly and wholeheartedly.