La­bor pro­poses African mi­grant bill

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By LAHAV HARKOV (As­maa Waguih/reuters)

A La­bor Party bill submitted this week said the law must de­fine that sta­tus of all refugees and de­cide how many refugees Is­rael can ac­cept in or­der to deal with the is­sue of il­le­gal African mi­gra­tion.

The new leg­is­la­tion is the cul­mi­na­tion of ef­forts that be­gan last sum­mer, when now-MK Moshe Mizrahi, a former com­man­der of the Se­ri­ous and In­ter­na­tional Crime Unit of the Is­rael Po­lice, led a com­mit­tee in La­bor to pro­pose a pol­icy to deal with the in­flux of African mi­grants.

“The Jewish peo­ple has ex­pe­ri­enced per­se­cu­tion and pogroms, and it is our spe­cial duty to lend a hand and help refugees of geno­cide,” La­bor chair­woman Shelly Yaci­movich said. “This does not con­tra­dict pro­tect­ing the sovereignt­y of the State of Is­rael and our in­ter­ests; the op­po­site is true. What causes dam­age is the fact that Is­raeli gov­ern­ments did not cre­ate a set pol­icy on the topic of refugees and work im­mi­grants and an­chor it in law.”

Mizrahi ex­plained that Is­rael is a civ­i­lized, mod­ern coun­try, but it lacks a proper im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy and avoids adopt­ing the prin­ci­ples of the 1951 UN Refugee Con­ven­tion, which Is­rael was one of the first coun­tries to sign.

“Time and again, like now, Is­rael is harshly crit­i­cized for its be­hav­ior to­ward mi­grants and refugees, and break­ing in­ter­na­tional law,” Mizrahi said. “The In­te­rior Min­istry’s be­hav­ior is scan­dalous and must be im­me­di­ately fixed.”

Ac­cord­ing to Yaci­movich, Is­rael’s be­hav­ior to­ward African mi­grants has in­creased in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism, but La­bor’s bill will make up for the government’s care­less­ness by clearly defin­ing mi­grant groups and de­ter­min­ing long- term ac­tion.

The government has yet to pro­pose a pol­icy for deal­ing with mi­gra­tion, with two of the most ur­gent is­sues on the mat­ter be­ing an ex­am­i­na­tion of refugee claims for all asy­lum seek­ers to de­ter­mine their sta­tus, and pro­vid­ing those who re­main in Is­rael with le­gal work visas in or­der to avoid so­cial is­sues.

La­bor’s bill would es­tab­lish a sys­tem to de­cide each mi­grant’s sta­tus within a cer­tain amount of time. This way, the government will be able to take in a lim­ited num­ber of refugees – up to 2,000 per year – that are rec­og­nized un­der in­ter­na­tional law, and send those who do not match the def­i­ni­tion of refugee back to their home coun­try.

If more than 2,000 refugees en­ter Is­rael, the government will have to work with other coun­tries that can ab­sorb them.

La­bor also rec­om­mends that the government de­crease the num­ber of for­eign work­ers it brings in each year and de­port those who are in Is­rael with­out a work visa, so that refugees can re­ceive vocational train­ing in farm­ing and con­struc­tion in­stead.

This pro­posal has been sug­gested many times by ac­tivists in re­cent years, but has yet to be im­ple­mented.

Ben Hart­man contribute­d to this report.

AFRICAN MI­GRANTS wait in a room near the Egyp­tian bor­der in 2010 be­fore be­ing smug­gled into Is­rael.

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