(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Sunday, 14 July 2013), held a special discussion to approve an action plan to repatriate illegal migrants.
At the start of a discussion PM Netanyahu made the following remarks:
"We are meeting today in order to advance the government plan to repatriate illegal migrants in Israel either to their countries of origin or to third countries. We are doing so in continuation of the action that was taken by my previous Government in which we blocked the phenomenon of illegal migration. This was an extraordinary achievement for the State of Israel because every Western country, to some extent, has failed to do this.
In effect, we succeeded in reducing entry into Israel's cities to zero. No illegal additional migrant has reached an Israeli city – not Tel Aviv, not Arad, not Eilat and not anywhere. Now we are focusing on the issue of repatriating the illegal migrants who are already there. We are doing so while respecting all legal and international norms; we are acting very responsibly and very determinedly. We started to move them out, we have already moved out several thousand, and we will continue to move them out of Israel's cities. There are severe problems there of crime, of tension, of employment, of sanitation. I am working with my ministerial colleagues, with Interior Minister Gideon Saar and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, in a combined effort to reach a solution to this problem. At the end of our term, we will be tested by it, as we were tested in the previous term by blocking the illegal migrants.
One must understand we are dealing with combined steps – physical, financial and legal. The combination of the fence and the law, which is now being put to a legal test; these are the tools that enabled the State of Israel to succeed up until now in doing the inconceivable. No other Western country has succeeded in blocking the large-scale entry of illegal migrants, and we succeeded in preventing any infiltrator from reaching Israel's cities. This is important. The combination of means, including legal, is what will enable us to succeed in repatriating the illegal migrants who are already in the State of Israel. This is possible. We are marking this as a goal. I am determined, and the ministers are determined, to implement this because we know that it is essential for the welfare of Israel's citizens and for its future as a Jewish and democratic state."
The plan that was approved focuses on repatriating illegal migrants either to their countries of origin or to third countries that will absorb them. The plan was also approved by legal authorities and will be implemented in conjunction with the Migration and Population Administration, the Israel Police and other relevant officials.
Participating in the discussion were Interior Minister Gideon Saar, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Haggai Hadas, and representatives of – inter alia – the Migration and Population Administration, the Justice Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Israel Police.
During the meeting, it was noted that the actions carried out by the government in the struggle against illegal migration led to a 99.6% drop in the number of migrants reaching Israel in the first half of 2013, as compared to the first half of 2012. In the first six months of the year, a mere 34 illegal migrants reached Israel's borders, as opposed to 9,570 last year. All illegal migrants who have arrived since June 2012 have been moved directly to holding facilities and none reached Israel's cities.
Blocking the phenomenon of illegal migration succeeded thanks to the Government's combined action plan which includes building a fence along the Western border and preventing illegal migrants from crossing the border. As of now, the Defense Ministry has completed over 235 kilometers of fence, and the remaining kilometers around Eilat will be completed soon.
At the same time, illegal migrants have been prevented from reaching Israel's cities. All illegal migrants who reach the border are moved directly to holding facilities, in accordance with the law on preventing illegal migration, which was initiated by the Government and which allows illegal migrants to be detained for up to three years.
Last month the Knesset approved, on its second and third readings, the law that bans illegal migrants from sending money beyond Israel's borders until they leave the country, as an additional step designed to reduce the number of illegal migrants.
Following the procedure which was approved by Attorney General Weinstein, the repatriation of illegal migrants from the Saharonim facility to their countries has resumed. A joint inter-ministerial team has also been established to work on combined enforcement in urban centers.
Interior Minister Saar said, "In my first tour of south Tel Aviv as Interior Minister, I presented the Government's policy: Repatriating illegal migrants to the countries or to third countries. In the past three months, we have taken several very significant steps to advance this policy. The main task is yet before us. This problem was not created in a day and it would be incorrect to create the illusion that it can be solved in a day. It is possible to say that every day there are fewer illegal migrants because the steps taken by the Netanyahu government have blocked entry and are advancing the opposite process. We are taking all these actions while guarding the image of the State of Israel and its values as a Jewish and democratic state. The objective is to maintain Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. We are all certainly determined to achieve this and we believe that we will succeed on the basis of that same determination that same progress. If we compare [Israel] to other Western countries, no country has similarly dealt with the same phenomenon."
Public Security Minister Aharonovitch said, "We have opened holding facilities and currently have the possibility of absorbing another 5,000 places for illegal migrants as soon as they are detained. At the same time, we are dealing with the phenomenon mainly – but not exclusively – in south Tel Aviv. We strengthened the local police station and added almost 200 officers to the Border Police unit. If there are illegal migrants involved in crime, we arrest them and move them to holding facilities."