Illegal Entry's Exponential Rise

The number of people illegally entering Israel via the Egyptian border continues to double each year; 10,000 new entrants since January.

Maayana Miskin , | updated: 1:19 PM

Sudanese migrant in Israel
Sudanese migrant in Israel
Flash 90

More than ten thousand people have illegally entered Israel via the Egyptian border since January 1, 2010, the Hebrew-language daily Maariv has reported. If entry continues at this rate, it will continue a pattern of exponential rise that began almost five years ago.

Until 2006, an estimated 1,100 illegal entrants had made their way to Israel, crossing the Sinai desert into the Negev desert, in an area where there is no fence. In 2007, illegal entry jumped dramatically, with an estimated 5,000 people gaining entrance to Israel.

In 2008, 8,700 people are thought to have entered Israel from Egypt.

Most of the illegal entrants are natives of various African countries, primarily Sudan and Eritrea. Some Israeli activists argue that the entrants should be considered refugees due to the wars raging in their home countries; others say that there is no refugee status for those entering from Egypt, as Egypt is a secure country, and the only reason for refugees to continue onward to Israel is economic opportunity.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced earlier this year that his government will address the issue of illegal entry by building a fence along Israel's border with Egypt, and by working to create a defined immigration policy.

Many Israeli community leaders call to combat illegal entry. Residents of Arad have accused illegal migrants of terrorizing their community, and earlier this year MK Yaakov Katz warned that migrants and foreign workers have “conquered” parts of Tel Aviv.

In Eilat, Mayor Meir Yitzchak HaLevy used satire to address the situation, advertising a mock campaign to hire illegal workers. He warned that illegal foreign workers now make up 15% of Eilat's population and have, he said, increased violence and crime by “incredible proportions.”

Illegal Migrants Prone to Violence?
Groups that call for illegal migrants to be allowed to remain in Israel have claimed that a new study commissioned by the Knesset shows that migrants are no more likely than Israelis to be involved in crime. However, the study compares crime rates based on the number of files opened against specific individuals – meaning that crimes committed by an individual whose identity is not known are underrepresented. Illegal entrants, whose identities are not on record, are difficult to track down when crimes are reported.

In addition, the studies did not distinguish between different types of crime, meaning that traffic violations were included with crimes such as violent assault. Residents of communities with large migrant populations have accused migrants of involvement specifically in theft, mugging, assault, and rape.

The report also includes police comments that crime among illegal migrants is thought to be extremely underreported, since illegal entrants who are the victim of crime are unlikely to complain. Most reports filed against illegal migrants are filed by Israeli citizens.

A resident of Arad who spoke to Israel National News reported that, whatever the Knesset says, the city is experiencing a sharp rise in violence and fear. Residents fear to walk in certain parts of the city, and no longer allow their children to wander freely outdoors, she said.

Much of the violence is witnessed by doctors and other professionals, and not necessarily by police, she added. Doctors in the city have seen more and more injuries consistent with violent assault, but many assaults – and in particular, those involving rival African gangs – are not reported.

She expressed sympathy with illegal migrants, who have often been forced to become violent in order to survive and to reach Israel. However, she said, Israel is not the right place to address their problems. With many issues among its own population to address, the country is unable to adequately treat tens of thousands of traumatized and impoverished migrants as well.