MK Eli Yishai (Shas), who came under fierce attacks when he took steps against illegal work migrants as interior minister, told Arutz Sheva Tuesday that it is time to repatriate tens of thousands of illegal work migrants, most of whom came to Israel from Sudan and Eritrea.
"When I began the struggle, I was accused of racism,” he said. “But I understood that it is either this struggle, or shelving the Zionist dream.”
Israel has to construct additional holding facilities for the work migrants and take the migrants out of the neighborhoods they currently live in to the facilities, and from there to their countries of origin, or third countries willing to take them, he stated.
Supporters of the migrants are “bleeding hearts,” he said, and suggested that they assist Nigerians by building factories and greenhouses for them in Nigeria, together with the UN and various governments. Israel can take part in such projects, he said, but it cannot take in large numbers of migrants. “We are about to lose the Zionist dream,” he warned.
As long as work permits are not issued to the migrants and they are transferred to the holding facilities, he said, they will leave of their own free will. But if they are able to work and earn monthly salaries equal to two years' salaries in their home countries, they will remain in Israel.
Yishai added that carrying out the job of repatriating the migrants requires “sensitivity and determination” – a slogan that was first used in preparations for the Gaza Disengagement of 2005, in which thousands of Jews were deported against their will.
There are no legal obstacles in the way of repatriation, he added. “The Ministry of Justice would not have made it possible to build facilities if it was against international law. We must act, and do so quickly.”
In 2012, the Defense Ministry began constructing facilities in the Negev desert to hold the illegal migrants before their expulsion, and work on a fence to block their entry into Israel from Sinai was accelerated. The first plane carrying migrants back to South Sudan took off, following an agreement between Israel and that country.
Meanwhile, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) began taking steps to expel the migrants, but ultra-leftist activists with close connections to the New Israel Fund mounted fierce campaigns to thwart this effort. Attempts by then-Interior Minister Eli Yishai to deport the illegal aliens resulted in his demonization by the press.
Pro-infiltrator groups mounted a savvy and expensive media campaign including a prime time commercial focusing on the children of immigrants who would be expelled if their parents were expelled. The video showed small foreign children singing songs in Hebrew in a classroom. Then a door opened, and immigration police led away a cute girl.
In 2009, Col. (res.) Tziki Sela, the head of the Oz Unit, which was in charge of enforcing the law vis-à-vis the aliens, had to resign after a media blitz against him and Yishai.
The media grilled Yishai over what it termed the “expulsion” of children. MK Ophir Pines (Labor) accused Sela of a "crude style" and "insensitivity" that "cause Israel’s name to be defamed and shame the entire Interior Ministry." The Center for Jewish Pluralism accused Sela of “causing serious damage to Israeli society’s moral fortitude and the basic Jewish and human values that are its foundation.”