Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Israel Virtually Stops African Immigration

Israel has stopped the unapproved influx of African migrants across its border with Egypt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday after months of intensive counter-measures on the once porous desert frontier.

More than 60,000 African migrants have walked into the Jewish state in recent years, some seeking work and others refuge. They have stirred fear for public order and demographics and prompted the government to build a fortified and closely patrolled fence between Israel and the Egyptian Sinai.

Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that 54 migrants crossed the border in October and were all taken into custody – a steep decline from the some 2,000 migrants who came through monthly in mid-2012, many of them settling in Israeli cities.

“Given this figure, we can say explicitly that we have halted the infiltration. And now we have to focus on removing or returning those infiltrators who are already in the territory of Israel to their countries of origin,” the conservative premier said.

Israel considers the vast majority of the migrants to be illegal job-seekers, and in June launched a deportation drive against a few thousand from South Sudan and Ivory Coast. That campaign was fuelled by a spree of anti-African street violence.

The bulk of the migrants are from Sudan or Eritrea, and Israel’s ability to expel them is limited. The former country is a Muslim state with no ties to Israel and the latter is deemed a danger zone by humanitarian agencies.

Such agencies say many of the African migrants should be considered for asylum, and some Israelis have been troubled that their country, founded by war refugees and immigrants, should be packing off foreigners en masse.

srael was holding around 2,500 migrants caught at the Egyptian border or rounded up by city police in two desert stockades, an Israeli official told Reuters, adding that the relatively low number reflected the fact that “there has not yet been any major deportation campaign”.

William Tall, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Israel, saw in the Netanyahu government’s inaction against the Sudanese and Eritreans a de facto immunity.

“I think we all understand that if the government was capable of deporting them, it would have moved to do so long ago,” Tall said.

He agreed that migration across the Israel-Egypt border had dropped off “dramatically”, suggesting that among disincentives had been Cairo’s recent military mobilisation against jihadi groups in the Sinai.

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.