Despite Immigrant Demo, Interior Minister Stands Firm
Despite the ongoing large scale demonstration by African immigrant workers, Interior Minister Gideon Saar (Likud-Beytenu) reiterated on Monday that Israel will investigate each request for shelter by illegal infiltrators, but will not allow job-seeking illegal immigrants to flood the country.
Saar initiated a new law, passed December 10, giving the country more power to prevent infiltrators entering the country, and to detain infiltrators for up to a year while investigating their status.
In an interview with Galei Tzahal (IDF Radio), Saar rejected claims, such as those made Sunday by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR), that Israel should accept the infiltrators as "asylum seekers," and that the country is acting against the Refugee Convention which it has signed onto.
"We are acting in accordance with the Refugee Convention, and the counsel of the Attorney General," clarified Saar. "The UN commission wanted to be part of the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process, which they currently are not, and they were sending petitions to the Supreme Court over the state of Israel's position."
"There are claims that we aren't checking requests for shelter," noted Saar. This is not true, he said. "We are checking the requests individually. The protesters yesterday want us to check the requests collectively."
In response, MKs recently asked the Attorney General to investigate the groups involved in organizing the massive illegal protests.
Meanwhile, residents of southern Tel Aviv, an area afflicted by massive crime due to the large presence of infiltrators, gathered in front of Saar's house last Monday to show support for his efforts in combating the phenomenon of infiltration.
The plight of southern Tel Aviv was again highlighted last Wednesday, when a young woman was brutally beaten by an infiltrator as he stole her smartphone.
Saar claims that a lot of misinformation on the issue is currently circulating. "They tell stories unconnected to reality. Following the steps we are taking, we see a significant rise in the scope of infiltrators leaving the country. The infiltrators realize the government is serious. We won't let the country become a 'state of its infiltrators.'"
"Only a small minority from the massive community even presented requests" for shelter as refugees, noted Saar. "I've given the orders to prioritize checks of requests of those in the closed detainment facilities. The decisive majority of requests are from job seekers, and not refugees."
There are various standards in determining refugee status, and many countries are stricter than Israel, according to Saar.
"One thing that isn't contested is that Israel has absorbed the largest number of infiltrators from Sudan and Eritrea," asserted Saar. "There are contested issues, like whether desertion from the army is a pretext to become a refugee. We, like other western countries, reason that it isn't a pretext; there are those who reason differently."