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      Interior Ministry to "Police" Foreign Workers

      The Immigration Police Department is about to be disbanded and its powers transferred to the Interior Ministry. 280,000 illegal aliens in Israel.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 2/8/2009, 6:09 PM

      Flash 90 / Israel News photo

      The Immigration Police Department is about to be disbanded and its powers transferred to the Immigration Authority in the Interior Ministry. There are 280,000 illegal aliens in Israel.

      Immigration Police Commander Effie Mor plans to gather his nearly 400 underlings on Monday, for a talk about their respective professional futures.  It appears that about half of them will be transferred to the Interior Ministry and continue their duties there, while the remainder will be assigned new police duties.

      Thai workers hold cockfight in Hod HaSharon.
      Flash 90 / Israel News photo

      Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the decision last week to assign the immigration-laws enforcement authorities to the the Ministry of Interior.  The laws governing the entry into Israel and employment of foreign workers are designed to encourage Israeli integration into the work force and the reduction of local unemployment.

      Police sources are very critical of the decision.  “Many countries have adapted the Israeli system,” one source told Maariv, which broke the story, “wherein only uniformed police, with police authorities, can carry out enforcement activities against foreign workers.  Only policemen can enter a house and carry out a search. The foreign workers have received a gift with this decision.”

      Thais not required: immigration police deport workers, Ben Gurion Airport.
      Flash 90 / Israel News photo

      Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit was quoted as saying that the decision was borne of necessity, with no elaboration. Ilan Marciano, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, explained to IsraelNationalNews that it was “logical and efficient” to have everything, including enforcement, under one umbrella.  He did not answer, however, how Interior Ministry officials would be able to enforce the relevant laws in the field without police backing.

      Sabine Haddad, spokesperson for the Immigration Authority, explained that just as Immigration Police do not have weapons and have the right to arrest suspected immigration law breaker for up to 24 hours, "the Interior Ministry inspectors will be in the same position."  Asked why the change was important, she said, "I can see you're not an illegal alien. At present the situation is that an illegal worker must face the police, the Enforcement Division, the Interior Ministry, the courts, and various stations along the way. The idea is to streamline the process and have him deal with only one body."

      Haddad said that though Olmert has made a decision in principle, "it's not happening tomorrow.  An official Cabinet decision is required, and with elections coming up, there will be quite a delay before it happens."

      Illegal Workers - Increasing
      The number of illegal foreign workers in Israel currently stands at approximately 280,000 and is growing.  Among them are 47,000 from neighboring Jordan, as well as 118,000 workers who entered Israel legally but never left when their work permits expired. Also included are 90,000 “tourists” who have not left Israel in accordance with their visas.

      Former Police Commander Yaakov Ganot, the first head of the Immigration Authority, will head the new organization as well.  He says that the number of illegal aliens who entered Israel as tourists dropped tremendously between 2002 and 2006, from 145,000 to about half that amount, because of resolute police activity.  It is now growing once again by some 5,000 per year, and currently stands at 90,000.