Agence France-Press (AFP) reports today:
JERUSALEM – The Israeli government on Sunday approved the construction of a barrier along the border with Egypt in a bid to curb the infiltration of illegal immigrants, a government official said.
A government committee approved the construction of three barriers along the 250-kilometre (155-mile) desert frontier that would block the main infiltration routes, the official said.
The project, which was put forward by the military, was expected to cost between US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) and US$1.5 billion, he told AFP.
Israel will still admit asylum seekers, but wants to put a stop to the flood of people, many said to be people coming to work rather than refugees, and also including drug smugglers. Egypt has clamped down on and even killed people coming illegally into the country, while Israel is more humane and has a good economy too — so that’s where the people are going, of course.
Israel has struggled to put a lid on the influx of human traffic. According to the interior ministry, some 300,000 illegal aliens – including 100,000 migrants, tourists who overstayed their visit and Palestinians – live in Israel which is home to seven million people. But human rights groups say that these figures are inflated.
It’s not hard to believe these numbers, though I have no way of knowing the reality. Israel is a little first-world nation in the midst of heavily populated third-world ones, many of whom violate human rights routinely. Why wouldn’t it attract a lot of people, who can reach Israel’s borders by foot?
For more information see our category “Israel and refugees,” or click here for a listing that is mostly limited to this issue of the Egyptian border.
Update 1/12/10: There is a longer article in the UK Independent today. True to the Brits’ current hatred of Israel, it focuses on the Israeli left’s criticisms of the government’s position on the refugees from Africa. This is the pattern of so much media coverage of Israel: It quotes every possible criticism of Israel, without ever contrasting Israel’s actions with those of other countries. This article, for example, includes this sentence:
To justify its often harsh approach, the Israeli government has been repeatedly playing on the core fears of public opinion.
What harsh approach? Not wanting every migrant that wants to cross its borders? That sentence is not a quote from a leftist critic; it’s the reporter’s idea of objective journalism. Here’s the rest of the paragraph:
Tzahi Hanegbi, the chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defence committee, told Israel Radio yesterday that there is no alternative to building the fence. “The infiltration of the migrants is threatening the very existence of Israel and its character,” he said. The country defines itself as both a Jewish and democratic state, something its leaders believe depends on maintaining the country’s present clear Jewish majority.
But critics call the policy nationalist and racist. (Some racists: Israel has gone to great lengths to fetch the Ethiopian Jews, resettle them in Israel, and teach them to adapt to the modern world.) They claim the government is just trying to frighten the public.
Here’s how laughably biased this is:
The fence decision comes as the government readies to push through the Knesset draconian legislation specifying prison sentences of five to seven years for “infiltrators” and Israelis who assist them. It also follows revelations that Israeli troops have heightened their cooperation with Egyptian counterparts at the border. According to an army response submitted recently to the Israeli supreme court, at one sector of the frontier, Israeli troops fire flares to “draw attention” of Egyptian soldiers to border sites where refugees and asylum seekers are crossing.
Egyptian forces killed 39 people trying to cross into Israel during 2008 and 2009, according to Amnesty International.
I see. Israel builds a fence, sends up flares, and puts infiltrators in prison, while Egyptians kill them, but Israel is the bad guy.
The last few paragraphs, in contrast, are a fair and informative history of the problem.