Illegal infiltrators in southern Tel Aviv
Illegal infiltrators in southern Tel Aviv Nicky Kelvin/Flash 90

While illegal immigrants who infiltrated into Israel across the southern border are often portrayed by left-wing NGOs as asylum seekers, fleeing the draft imposed on them by their own governments, data recently released by the state appears to bolster contrary claims made by those seeking to repatriate illegal immigrants.

Tens of thousands of infiltrators crossed into Israel over the Egypt-Israel frontier prior to 2013, most of them citizens of states in northeast Africa including Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea.

Though Israel built a barrier along the border with Egypt, completing the fence in early 2013 and effectively blocking illegal entries, by 2014, some 50,000 infiltrators remained inside Israel, concentrated mostly in lower-income neighborhoods in southern Tel Aviv, Eilat, Ashdod, and Ashkelon.

Left-wing NGOs advocating on behalf of the illegal immigrants have claimed that the infiltrators are in fact legitimate asylum seekers, fleeing the draft imposed by their own governments.

But critics of this claim, including activists in southern Tel Aviv who have pushed for the repatriation of illegal immigrants to their countries of origin or third party states, have long argued that the bulk of infiltrators are in fact economic immigrants, looking to benefit from higher wages in Israel and the state’s socialized medical system.

Data released this week by the state in response to a Supreme Court petition revealed that contrary to the popular perception of illegal immigrants as economically exploited, a significant number make at or above the average wage of citizens and legal workers.

According to the statistics, released Wednesday night and based on figures from 4,500 mandatory deposits made by illegals from May 2017 to September, the reported incomes of infiltrators – excluding undocumented earnings or profits from illegal activities – averaged 6,632 shekels ($1,800) per month.

While a full 50% of Israelis hold a college degree, their incomes averaged less than 3,000 shekels more than the average for infiltrators, who work mostly as unskilled laborers. In 2016, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that Israelis averaged a monthly income of 9,385 shekels ($2,670). Nearly all infiltrators work illegally in Israel, with few possessing work permits.

Sixty percent of infiltrators have reported incomes of 7,000 shekels ($2,000) or more, while a significant number of illegal immigrants (31%) earned at or above the average income level of Israeli citizens and legal workers with more than 9,000 shekels a month ($2,600).

Furthermore, the information released by the state shows that one in ten illegal immigrants earns significantly more than the national average, with incomes greater than 12,000 shekels per month (3,412).

Most of the money, according to the data, is sent back to the infiltrators’ countries of origin. On average, illegal immigrants spend just 30% of their incomes, sending the remaining 70% in remittances to relatives living abroad.