Following rioting against Africans concentrated in a south Tel Aviv neighborhood, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that the repatriation will be accelerated of some 25,000 illegal African immigrants. Most of those affected are from South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Ethiopia, and include children born in Israel. According to the press, there are 52,487 illegal economic migrants in Israel. The Netanyahu government has been taking a hard line against illegal immigration. According to the press, the deportation of hundreds of south Asians and their Israeli-born children is currently underway.
Netanyahu has acknowledged that those who have refugee status as defined by international conventions that Israel has signed cannot be deported. They are mostly from Eritrea and Sudan. He has also ordered the acceleration of the construction of a camp in the Negev for those who cannot return to their home countries.
According to the press, Netanyahu in the past has characterized African asylum seekers as a “threat” to Israel’s “Jewish and democratic character.” The press reports that since 2009, of the 45,000 migrants that attempted to enter through Egypt, only three were granted asylum requests.
Israel faces an African migration conundrum not dissimilar from that of southern European countries, especially Italy and Spain. For decades Israel has carefully cultivated improved relations with sub-Saharan African states. The deportations will undercut that effort, especially if they are widely publicized in Africa. Already there is African commentary that the accelerated deportations “provide further evidence of the inherently racist nature of political Zionism.”
This post originally appeared on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations.