Yisrael Beiteinu MKs Lia Shemtov, Robert Ilatov, Moshe Matalon and Anastassia Michaeli toured the Neve Shaanan neighborhood in south Tel Aviv on Thursday, following dozens of reports of increasing violence and vandalism by infiltrators from Sudan and Eritrea.
During the tour, the MKs were exposed to the phenomenon which has made the lives of the residents and business owners what they have described as a “never-ending nightmare.”
Israel has long had problems with infiltrators from Africa who enter through the non-hermetically sealed border with Egypt, some falsely claiming refugee status although that is not the case. Many of them end up residing in the central bus station in Tel Aviv. The area looks surrealistically like an African country, in terms of population, stores and atmosphere.
“I could not believe my eyes,” said MK Shemtov following the tour. “Thousands of Sudanese hanging around what was once a bustling business area, they relieve themselves in every street corner, get drunk at night and endanger the lives of local residents.”
The MKs heard from residents how the infiltrators are corrupting the area, stealing from homes and physically harming women who dare to refuse to move around the neighborhood without an escort.
MK Shemtov, who also serves as Chair of the Knesset Subcommittee on Small Businesses said that this situation cannot continue.
“There is a state within a state here,” she said. “Those who thought that the Palestinians are the only ones with whom we have to deal are wrong. There are tens of thousands of infiltrators here who came to find work.”
Shemtov added that she intends to raise the issue at the various Knesset committees and said, “We must not let this lawlessness go on. Neve Shaanan is not the Wild West but it seems like we need to appoint a sheriff to restore order there, and the sooner the better.”
Earlier this week, Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin said that the infiltrators are not refugees but job seekers.
Speaking in Eilat, Rivlin said, “If these were refugees fleeing for their lives, we would have the moral obligation to open the gates and provide for their basic needs. However, those illegal entrants who reach Eilat are not refugees in the simple sense of the word. Many of them are not fleeing for their lives, but rather, looking to improve their financial situation.”
Rivlin called on the government to “come to a decision and set an official policy in this matter.”