In light of recent events surrounding the influx of illegal African migrants into Israel, the government was set to take action to address one of the most burning issues on the country's agenda, while the police was expected to arrest 3,000 illegal economic migrants from South Sudan and to hold them at the Saharonim detention center in the south.
The move to arrest the migrants comes after the attorney-general informed the prime minister on Wednesday that upon examination he had determined that it would be legal to deport the migrants hailing from South Sudan back to their native country.
The issue of African infiltrators has gained a lot of attention recently following a spate of violent crimes in southern Tel Aviv attributed to African migrants. Interior Minister Eli Yishai recently advocated arresting all African migrants and holding them in detention facilities or deporting them, while residents of southern Tel Aviv have staged demonstrations urging the government to remove the African migrants from their neighborhoods.
But before the government made any actual decisions, Yishai continued advancing his own crusade against the infiltrators. Israel Hayom discovered on Thursday that Yishai has instructed the Population, Immigration and Border Authority to arrest and imprison — for three years — all new infiltrators who enter Israel, starting next week.
According to Yishai, the buses that have been transporting infiltrators from the south of the country to the Tel Aviv area will begin disappearing next week. It was also revealed that Yishai plans to significantly increase the Oz Unit (the law enforcement unit of the Interior Ministry) and will appeal to the Treasury in a request for additional funds. Yishai's associates explained that at this stage the infiltrators cannot be deported, pending a High Court of Justice hearing slated for next month.
Yishai also announced on Thursday that he will impose personal fines on any municipality leader or mayor that employs illegal migrants in violation of the government decision. The interior minister has allotted these mayors and municipal leaders 30 days to dismiss all the currently employed illegal migrants or risk being charged with fines.
Meanwhile, the planned arrest of 3,000 South Sudanese infiltrators will go into effect as soon as the Tel Aviv court approves the attorney-general's recommendation. It is not yet clear whether the arrest operation will be broad and fast or slow and ongoing. The Prime Minister's Office has clarified that once the South Sudanese are arrested, the remainder of the infiltrators will also be expelled, assuming there is no legal obstacle to deporting them.
Despite the announcement, however, it is widely believed that the infiltrators from Eritrea, who make up approximately 70 percent of the African migrants currently in Israel, alongside the citizens of Sudan and other African countries, will stay in Israel until a solution is devised.
The attorney-general's recommendation Wednesday came just as some 2,000 residents of south Tel Aviv took to the streets in a mass protest against the presence of African migrants in their neighborhoods.
In recent weeks, several rapes have been blamed on African migrants, sparking outrage and anger among the public. On Thursday, an indictment was filed against two men, one Sudanese and one Eritrean, for the rape and sexual assault of a woman in the central bus station area in south Tel Aviv. According to the indictment, the two met the young woman at a bar and later attacked her, stealing NIS 600 ($156) and her I.D. card, and dragging her into a parking lot where one of them raped her.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch announced this week that Israel was planning to increase its border police and police deployment on the southern border and in Tel Aviv in an attempt to combat the influx of infiltrators. On Thursday night, after meeting with Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino for an evaluation of the situation, a decision was reached to beef up the police presence in south Tel Aviv with an additional 100 officers and border policemen.
At a conference in Tel Aviv, Aharonovitch expressed anger at the fact that a Border Police battalion stationed along the Israel–Egypt border was replaced by a battalion of soldiers and reservists. He said Border Police officers should be deployed in areas where there is still no security fence.
"Due to financial considerations, the Border Police unit that was stationed there was dismantled. I warned that this would be a disaster. The Border Police has the knowledge and authority to handle the situation and it should not be replaced every month or two months. It also has the equipment, such as water cannons and rubber bullets."
Aharonovitch also warned that "a million Sudanese and Eritrean migrants are currently making their way to Israel, some are near the security fence already and some are in Cairo."