A surge in African immigrants has sparked a flurry of backlash from Israelis who feel that the new migrants are not welcome and pose a threat to Jerusalem’s identity. Some Israelis are now taking the law into their own hands and resorting to intimidation and violent attacks.
By law and an international refugee treaty, Israel is required to provide a place of safety for migrants who come to escape oppression and war from their home country.
An estimated 60,000 African migrants, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea, have managed to sneak past Israel’s border that it shares with Egypt. The absence of a fence and border patrol agents has made it easy for refugees to slip through unnoticed.
While Israel is steadily building a fence to seal the 125 mile border, migrants continue to flood the country at a rate of approximately 1,000 every month. Most migrants come with nothing but the clothes on their back. Most report being abused and badly mistreated by the Bedouins who smuggle them.
While African migrants still make up less than one percent of Israel’s total population, some Israelis feel the refugees are harming the country’s identity as a Jewish state.
Even top Israeli officials have used derogatory terms to describe the migrants, using names such as “cancer” and “infiltrators”. Even Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has taken a firm stance against the refugees and said that their increasing numbers can lead to the demise of the Jewish state.
Due to a 1951 U.N. treaty, Israel cannot deport refugees back to their country where their lives may be in jeopardy. Other options are being considered, such as looking for a third country that is willing to give them asylum.
Israel has been slammed by the U.S. State Department for granting asylum to only one of the 4,603 people who applied in 2011. Without legal status, migrants will not be able to work or receive health care.