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Attacks Target a Teeming Enclave for Foreign Workers

TEL AVIV — The double suicide bombing Sunday in the Neve Sha’anan district that most of the estimated 80,000 foreign workers who live in Tel Aviv call home cast a spotlight on a community living in fear of both terrorism and deportation.

Of the 22 killed in the attacks near the old central bus station, six were foreign — two from Romania, one each from Ukraine, Bulgaria, China and Ghana.

Most of the foreign workers are here illegally. The Africans, South Americans and Filipinos are believed to have some 5,000 children. Some study in the city school system and receive services from city clinics. The only official institution that takes care of the foreign workers is the Tel Aviv municipality’s foreign workers help line.

In the months since the prime minister declared a campaign to deport illegal foreign workers, the community has been living in fear. After the attacks Sunday, the third to strike in the Neve Sha’anan district, they received a general amnesty. One after the other, the ministers of health, interior, labor and welfare and other officials declared that injured foreign workers would receive the same services as Israeli citizens. The injured were urged to come to hospitals without fear of deportation. The National Insurance Institute said it was preparing to fly in relatives of the wounded if necessary.

Dozens of foreign workers have been killed or injured in terrorist attacks over the past two years, including two Chinese and two Romanian citizens killed in a suicide bombing in the same neighborhood in July last year.

Hana Zohar of the Kav La’Oved hotline for foreign workers said that when there is an attack, Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas becomes merciful toward foreign workers, but at the same time he is the one that calls incessantly for them to be deported.

“One mustn’t forget that a few days after the last Neve Sha’anan attack, the prime minister ordered the deportation of 50,000 foreign workers,” Zohar said.

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