Interior Minister: UN Should Take Care of Migrant Workers, Not Israel

Amid growing debate on Israel's policy toward migrants, asylum seekers, Netanyahu says influx of illegal infiltrators threatens Israeli society, national security and identity.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai rejected a recent call by Israeli Police chief to provide migrant workers and asylum seekers with work permits, adding that Israel wasn't responsible for what happens in Eritrea and Sudan.

Yishai's comments came amid an ongoing debate regarding Israel's migrant worker policy, heated over reported rising crime rates in Tel Aviv's southern neighborhoods, where many of the migrant workers reside.

On Wednesday, the interior minister said that most of the migrants from Africa are engaged in criminal actions and should be placed in detention facilities, adding that Israel is willing to provide financial assistance for migrants to leave.

In an interview with Army Radio, Yishai differentiated between refugees and asylum seekers, saying that "whoever is considered a refugee, and there are few, can stay. One cannot forsake the security of Israelis."

Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday, the interior minister was asked to respond to comments made by Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino, according to which Israel should provide migrant workers with work permits, saying: "Why should be provide them with jobs? I'm sick of the bleeding hearts, including politicians."

"Jobs would settle them here, they'll make babies, and that offer will only result in hundreds of thousands more coming over here," Yishai said, reiterating his stance that Israel should "jail or deport all of them with a departing grant. Once they're in jail, they won't want to come over here anymore."

When asked about the danger facing returning migrant workers and asylum seekers in their home countries, the interior minister said: "I'm not responsible for what happens in Eritrea and Sudan, the UN is."

"Those who won't leave voluntarily will be paid to be deported either to his country or to another – I want everyone to be able to walk the streets without fear or trepidation," he said, adding: "The migrants are giving birth to hundreds of thousands, and the Zionist dream is dying."

Also addressing to the issue, Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of a special cabinet meeting marking Jerusalem Day on Sunday that the trend of illegal infiltration from Africa was "very serious," and a threat to "Israeli society, national security and identity."

"The problem started seven years ago, and with the formation of the current government three years ago we decided to take care of the problem immediately," the premier said.

Netanyahu added: "If we don't stop the problem, 60,000 infiltrators can turn into 600,000, and bring about the undoing of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

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Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, right, with Boaz Nol
Shiran Granot