News24

Israel: Call for integration of immigrants

2012-06-15 13:04

Jerusalem - Recipients of Israel's highest civilian honour have called on the government to stop what they term "governmental incitement against foreign asylum seekers", Israel Radio reported on Friday.

Asylum seekers who cannot be repatriated to their countries of origin should be integrated temporarily into the Israeli workforce, said the group of high-profile academics, intellectuals and public figures - all of who have been awarded the Israel Prize.

The authorities estimate that there are at least 60 000 African migrants living in the country without residence or work permits.

The group said that while Israel has the right to decide who may or may not enter its territory, and while it has the right to construct a fence along its southern border to prevent illegal migration, "a policy of zero immigration and zero refugees is unethical".

Reports say the laureates include former minister Shulamit Aloni, sculptor Micha Ullman and author Hanoch Bartov, among others.

Many of the migrants end up in the poor neighbourhoods of Tel Aviv, where their presence has sparked friction with residents over safety, health and housing issues.

Politicians, including government ministers, have railed against them: One legislator from the ruling Likud Party compared them to "cancer", and Interior Minister Eli Yishai claimed most of the African migrants are a crime risk.

The authorities began rounding up African migrants on Sunday, and also encouraged others from South Sudan to leave the country voluntarily.