Israel's Migrant and Asylum Seekers: Background and Opinion Articles

Between 2006 and 2012, approximately 38,000 African asylum seekers and economic migrants - most of whom are Eritrean and Sudanese nationals - entered Israel from Egypt. The influx has compelled Israel to seek a solution that balances its values with its interests.

Israel has taken a number of steps to stem the tide, including construction of a border fence with Egypt. These efforts have proven highly effective and no new asylum seekers entered Israel via Egypt in 2017. Even so, Israel has had to seek a solution for the migrants and asylum seekers who are currently living inside its borders.

Concerns over rising crime rates and the demographic character of Israel as a Jewish state have led to support for deportation among some Israelis. At the same time, protests against deportation have highlighted Israel’s moral obligations to those in need among those who believe Israel should assist the asylum seekers to make new lives in Israel.

With the early April announcement – and subsequent suspension – of a deal with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to resettle half of the asylum seekers in Western countries, the issue has again come to the forefront of Israeli and international news.

Within our Boston community, this issue has elicited strong responses – driven by a commitment to the security of Israel, compassion for asylum seekers, and a love for the State of Israel.

In CJP’s role as a convener and information resource for Boston’s Jewish community, we have compiled a list of sources representing an array of opinions. This list is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, it is a selection of sources that we believe are balanced and accurate in their coverage of the issue.

Background Resources

Illegal Migrants & Refugees in Israel Major Trends and Background Information (Jewish Federations of North America, February 2018)

10 Key Questions about Israel’s Asylum Seeker Controversy (Times of Israel, February 2018)

Unpacking Israel’s African Migrant Dilemma (HonestReporting, March 2018)

An Integrated Jewish World Response to Israel’s Migrant Challenge (The Jewish People Policy Institute, March 2018)

Editorials and Opinion (listed in order of author’s surname):

Then There Was Disbelief
Times of Israel
By Julie Fisher

“Politics are complex. The prime minister is under tremendous pressure from his political allies. Political realities, however real, do not negate the legal rights of the asylum seekers to have their refugee status determined in a transparent process and not to be sent to countries where their safety cannot be assured. These rights are based on the 1951 Refugee Convention signed by Israel.”

Mr. Prime Minister, I am ashamed of you
Times of Israel
By Donniel Hartman

“Your morally bankrupt rhetoric, branding all asylum seekers as “infiltrators,” instead of allowing that, at the very least, some are refugees, and supporting the false claims that they pose a danger to the Jewishness of Israel and the well-being of southern Tel Aviv, caught up with you. Or more correctly, infected us all.”

Migrant Policy
Jerusalem Post
By the Jerusalem Post editorial board

“Israel, a tiny country of Jews – many of them refugees or descendants of refugees – surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile Muslims and with its own minority Arabs, is less well positioned than Europe to absorb Africans.”

Israel's Asylum Seeker Crisis: Quick Fix Can’t Mask Racism Problem
By Anshel Pfeffer

“More than the government ever cared about solving the social problems in the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv, which were dilapidated and neglected long before the wave of African asylum seekers began arriving some 12 years ago, it wanted its base to know it was doing something to get rid of these ‘infiltrators.’ 

PM Netanyahu absolutely right in annulling migrant deal
By Shlomo Pyutrekovsky

The deal with the UN's refugee agency was a bad one, which would have provided ample incentives for economically-minded migrants to infiltrate Israel in hopes of a better future here on in other Western countries

Compassion for the Stranger: Remembering the Asylum Seekers at Passover
By Barry Shrage

“Base political maneuvering has cost us the opportunity for an elevated political vision to guide Israeli society and the American Jewish community—a vision based on our most significant Jewish values and that embodies our best hopes for our children and grandchildren.”

Why deportation of asylum seekers is unnecessary
By Ben-Dror Yemini

“According to serious reports and European court rulings from recent years, Eritreans returning to their country are no longer in danger of being tortured; now that the situation has changed, there’s no need to deport them—there’s a need to return them.”

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