Editorial

Bounty Hunters Needed

As with any dirty job, high pay is necessary to get people to agree to do it, unless you employ foreign workers. And needless to say, thats not an option in this case

An Israeli police officer deports an asylum seeker
Eran Wolkowski

Last week, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority announced that it was recruiting 140 new workers, including 100 immigration inspectors to deport asylum seekers in an operation which also began last week. As with any dirty job, high pay is necessary to get people to agree to do it, unless you employ foreign workers. And needless to say, thats not an option in this case.

Aside from paying the inspectors a salary, the authority is also offering a substantial monetary grant of up to 30,000 shekels, or $8,800, which will be given at the end of their term of employment only to people who merit it. Every employer knows theres nothing like promising a bonus to increase employees motivation.

The authority told the asylum seekers that they must leave within 90 days. Anyone who leaves voluntarily will receive a grant of $3,500. But starting in April, the time for words and grants will be over. After that, any asylum seekers who refuse to leave will be jailed indefinitely, and anyone who employs an asylum seeker will be fined.

The population authority terms this shameful deportation campaign an enterprise of national importance, and it describes the bounty hunting – which entails locating, detaining and interrogating black people in the streets, in restaurants or anywhere they can be found – as an enforcement mission against illegal migrants and their employers. Its no accident that its list of desirable traits for applicants includes experience in combat or security positions.

But the tortuous euphemisms dont help: This is contemptible work which shames those who do it, just as the deportations themselves shame Israel, which was founded by the descendants of refugees. How did it happen that xenophobia has taken over the Jewish state and risen to such a level that the country refuses to abide by basic international norms on the treatment of asylum seekers? Not only is the state not helping them in their time of need, but its persecuting them, along with anyone who aids them, and forcing them to choose between expulsion to a dangerous place and life in prison.

Its important to recall how few asylum seekers there actually are to underscore what a minor challenge they pose to an economically strong and physically secure country like Israel. Just 35,000 Eritreans and Sudanese remain here, plus 5,000 of their children who were born here.

With a little goodwill, Israel could easily have met its international and moral obligations and presented a plan to aid and absorb the asylum seekers, while dispersing them throughout the country to make life easier for residents of south Tel Aviv, at least until its safe for them to return to their own countries. With a minimal amount of empathy, Israel could have shown the world that it behaves differently than the world behaved toward Jewish refugees who sought asylum and were answered with a slammed door, in the best case. But in Israel, empathy and goodwill are apparently reserved for Jews only.