Navigate to News section

Eli Yishai Orders Roundup of African Migrants

Detentions would begin on October 15

Jacob Silverman
August 30, 2012
An African migrant attends an anti-racism demonstration in Tel Aviv in July(Getty/AFP)
An African migrant attends an anti-racism demonstration in Tel Aviv in July(Getty/AFP)

Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai ordered immigration police yesterday to round up African migrants. The operation would begin on October 15. Many of the migrants are refugees from Darfur and face persecution or even death if they return to states that consider Israel an enemy regime. The proposed plan follows a law passed January allowing the state to detain migrants, without charge, for up to three years. Human rights groups have repeatedly protested against the government’s treatment of migrants, with attorney Yonatan Berman of the Clinic for Migrants’ Rights telling Haaretz:

“Yishai’s complete indifference to human life is astonishing,” adding that Israel’s threat to deport migrants unless they leave the country violates the refugee convention.

“Since it is not possible to deport them, it is illegal to lock up thousands of asylum-seekers for no reason,” Berman said. “We are convinced the Foreign and Justice Ministries have not agreed to the interior minister’s statement, whose main purpose is to create the illusion that he’s doing something,” he added.

The objections are unlikely to sway Yishai, who has claimed that most African migrants are criminals. Other politicians have been outspokenly against the refugees—one Likud MK called them a “cancer”—a number of whom have been subjected to discrimination and violent attacks.

Jacob Silverman is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and book critic. He is also a contributing editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review.