Israel to lock thousands of Africans in detention camp
Published Friday, June 8, 2012
Israel's interior minister said on Friday he hoped to soon start moving tens of thousands of illegal African migrants from Tel Aviv and elsewhere to a detention camp being built, one of the largest in the world.
An Israeli court cleared the way on Thursday for the deportation of an estimated 1,500 South Sudanese asylum seekers, after ruling that their lives were no longer threatened in their homeland, despite South Sudan having fought a bloody border dispute with Sudan in recent months.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai told public radio 40,000 Sudanese and Eritreans were next in his sights.
The move comes as racist fever sweeps Israel, with anti-African pogroms by Jewish extremists targeting the asylum seeker community fleeing from warfare and persecution in their homelands.
"There are still about 15,000 from north Sudan and some 35,000 from Eritrea," he said. "I am not allowed to get them out at the moment."
He said he expected legal obstacles would be removed and that the government was also offering a grant to those prepared to leave voluntarily.
"They are close to being expelled either willingly or against their will," he said.
The minister highlighted the racist insecurity of Israel, saying black Africans threatened the Jewish makeup of the country.
"This is a number that threatens the Jewish identity."
As a first step, he said, African asylum seekers would be rounded up and moved to a detention center being built in southern Israel at a projected cost of 250 million shekels ($6.7 million).
"As soon as the facility is completed, which could be in a few months – and alongside it we plan to put up a tent city with all the accepted conditions – then we shall start moving migrants from south Tel Aviv, from (the Red Sea town of) Eilat ... wherever they are."
Interior ministry statistics show that approximately 60,000 African immigrants have entered Israel illegally, the vast majority of them from Sudan and Eritrea.
Yishai said he estimated a further 6,000 may have sneaked across the border from Egypt undetected, but reinforcing the state's racism, he hoped the disturbance of having Africans in Jewish neighborhoods would soon be eradicated.
"I hope that in the coming months we shall be able to move all the (African) infiltrators to detention facilities and allow Israeli citizens in south Tel Aviv and others to live in a proper way ... in quiet and security," he added.
Israel is building a giant, hi-tech security barrier along its 240-kilometre border with the Egyptian Sinai.
So far 170 kilometres have been erected and the project is due to be completed later this year.
Zionism, Israel's founding ideology, has long been accused of being a racist blueprint for the country, as it reinforces Israel's Jewish identity at the expense of indigenous Palestinians and other non-Jewish communities.
Israeli society is, thus, largely intolerant towards non-Jewish communities, with racism a norm.