During press conference Israeli Coalition for Refugees presents data according to which government approved import of 120,000 work immigrants – 25 times amount of refugees who infiltrated through Egyptian border

Yael Branovsky

Published: 02.02.10, 12:27 / Israel News

//

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently warned of an overflow of refugees entering Israel, however it appears that the government simultaneously approved the import of 120,000 migrant workers – 25 times the amount of refugees infiltrating via the Egyptian border (amounting to 4,787).

The data are based on information relayed by the State to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and were presented during a press conference held Tuesday by the Israeli Coalition for Refugees. The coalition represents the Association for Civil Rights, Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline) and the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

The organizations claim that the Israeli government is trying to intimidate the public in order to prevent the Sudanese and Eritrean refugees from being given an asylum in Israel.

Attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Human Rights said at the press conference, “Not a single refugee from Eritrea or Sudan has undergone an evaluation of their eligibility to receive refugee status,” and added that the State of Israel is meant to evaluate them, but in reality “it doesn’t deport them, but it doesn’t evaluate them either.”

The Knessest’s Internal Affairs Committee will discuss a bill regarding infiltration prevention on Wednesday, which passed in first reading at the previous Knesset.

According to the aid groups, an approval of such a bill would amount to Israel’s violation of the UN’s Refugee Convention of which it is a member.

According to the proposal, the infiltrators will be subjected to prison terms lasting five to 20 years and will be deported back to their countries. Should the pill pass it will render the aid groups lawbreakers.

The organizations called on the government to withdraw the bill and form a protective policy of asylum seekers in accordance with the UN convention of which Israel is a member.

Professor Rafi Walden, President Shimon Peres’ son-in-law, also spoke at the press conference and spoke of how as a doctor at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, he recently treated a refugee from Sudan whose village was burnt and who was shot in Egypt.

“If this law passes, I will become a candidate for a five-year prison sentence,” he said, “This is a shame on the Jewish people and the State of Israel, which was established as a shelter for refugees. The State must defend its borders, but anyone who really is a refugee, must be helped.”

Singer Alma Zohar, who volunteers to assist refugees and labor immigrants, said, “This law is dangers and threatens all human rights activists. The State has crossed the line into dark territory.”MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said in response to the data presented, “It seems this is a negligent, dangerous and dark proposal, which is based on a distortion of reality and intimidation of the Israeli public.”

He added: “It is particularly serious since the bill proposal on infiltration is the Israeli government’s first statement on forming a proper policy on refugees. It is a dark statement, which is dangerous and anti-democratic.”