update deskIsrael News

Cabinet approves $7.8 million to counter ‘illegal infiltrators’

The move comes a week after more than 170 people were injured when a demonstration by Eritreans turned violent in Tel Aviv.

Eritrean asylum seekers clash with Israeli police in South Tel Aviv, Sept. 2, 2023. Photo by Omer Fichman/Flash90.
Eritrean asylum seekers clash with Israeli police in South Tel Aviv, Sept. 2, 2023. Photo by Omer Fichman/Flash90.

Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday approved a budget of 20 million shekels ($5.2 million) to incentivize African migrants and asylum seekers to voluntarily leave the country, in addition to 10 million shekels ($2.6 million) to compensate Israeli communities whose quality of life has been negatively impacted by migrants.

In addition, an inter-ministerial team headed by ministry directors generals, will be set up to further address the issue.

“As part of the special plan to strengthen South Tel Aviv and other centers where illegal infiltrators are located, we are allocating tens of millions to encourage the exit of infiltrators, strengthen senior citizens, renovate damaged synagogues, assist students and young people, and more,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the Cabinet meeting.

The government is also seeking to provide legal aid to Israelis who have suffered negative consequences due to migrants in their neighborhood.

Advancement of the plan, compiled by Yitzhak Wasserlauf, the minister for the development of the periphery, the Negev and the Galilee, comes a week after more than 170 people were injured, including 49 police officers, when a demonstration against an event in Tel Aviv organized by the Eritrean embassy turned violent.

Pro- and anti-regime Eritreans used rocks, clubs and other weapons against each other and police, and local businesses and parked vehicles were vandalized.

Officers deployed riot dispersal tools, including tear gas, but resorted to live ammunition when these proved ineffective, fearing for their lives. 

Said Wasserlauf at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting: “The plight of the residents of neighborhoods full of infiltrators is a problem for all of us. Like many problems, it gets exposure only when it breaks through into the public domain.

“I know the residents of these neighborhoods very well as I have lived among them; they are concerned citizens who live a harsh, unacceptable reality and fear for the safety of their children.”

Israel has been confronted with illegal African migration since the Egyptian government in 2005 violently cracked down on a demonstration in Cairo, resulting in the arrest and injury of hundreds of asylum-seekers.

As word spread of potentially more fertile grounds to the north, these migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, began to trickle across the porous Israeli-Egyptian border. What began as a trickle soon turned into a flood as tens of thousands of migrants began rushing across Israel’s border, all claiming political asylum. 

This wave continued for the next few years as Israel’s government mostly ignored the problem, allowing the migrants to work low-skill jobs and to begin establishing large communities in the southern neighborhoods of Tel Aviv.

The influx of African migrants continued until it led to public outcry as south Tel Aviv deteriorated economically and migrant numbers swelled to as high as 60,000. In 2010 the government began working on a fence along the Israel-Egypt border, which was completed by 2012, thereby bringing further illegal crossings to near zero. 

Last week, Netanyahu said that the violence in Tel Aviv had “crossed a red line,” and that “this disturbance, the bloodshed, these are things that we cannot tolerate.”

The premier said the developments “constituted a tangible threat to the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” He also pointed the finger at the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, for blocking efforts to find a solution.

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