TEL AVIV – Head of the centrist Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid on Wednesday called on Israel to deport the vast majority of illegal immigrants from Africa and allow only the “small group of actual refugees” to stay.
“What we need to do is we need to expel those who came here only to seek a job,” Lapid told a crowd of 500 English-speaking immigrants at a town hall meeting in Jerusalem.
“There are two groups. There’s a small group of refugees, people who come from places like Darfur, where there was something that’s not a Holocaust because nothing is like the Holocaust, but it’s almost there,” he said, adding that “as Jews we cannot be indifferent to what happened in Darfur and other places” and “have an obligation to shelter those” being persecuted.
However, he added that it’s not Israel’s problem “to deal with 40,000 or 35,000 people who came here from Eritrea looking for a job. We need to expel them, whether they agree or not. And if laws should be changed, laws should be changed.”
He said that while there was “no clear-cut solution” and that it would take time, the situation in south Tel Aviv, which has become flooded with migrants in the past few years, was “horrible” and he urged the government to put together a plan to rehabilitate the area.
The opposition MK’s comments on the migrant crisis were mostly aligned with the government’s stance that the majority of the tens of thousands of Africans living in Israel illegally are economic migrants who should be deported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting this week, “They aren’t refugees.”
“Most of them are looking for jobs,” he said.
Netanyahu, who last week announced the establishment of a ministerial committee to deal with the influx of largely Sudanese and Eritrean migrants to Israel in recent years, vowed to “remove [the] illegal aliens who don’t belong here.”
Last week, as Breitbart Jerusalem reported, the Supreme Court ruled that the state may deport illegal immigrants to a third country with consent, but added that the government cannot detain those who refuse to go for more than 60 days.
The court rejected a petition by human rights groups against deportation with consent. The judges stressed that the third country must be deemed safe. In addition, the government is banned from jailing those who refuse to leave for more than two months.
Until now, Israel had imprisoned illegal immigrants for up to 12 months.
According to the African Refugee Development Center, some 46,437 Africans have sought asylum in Israel. The majority, 73%, are from Eritrea, and around 19% are from Sudan. Israeli authorities maintain that there are 40,000 illegal migrants in Israel, most of whom are economic migrants and not refugees seeking sanctuary.
Residents of south Tel Aviv slammed the ruling, saying that illegal aliens should not have to give “consent” in order to be deported and claiming that they are being hit with a massive crime wave since the influx of migrants. On Saturday, hundreds of them demonstrated outside the home of Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, calling on the court to respect “human rights for citizens too.”