Netanyahu attempts to bury report on migrants

By Shira Rubin, March 27, 2014
An asylum seeker in Tel Aviv protests against being refused refugee status (Photo: Flash 90)

An asylum seeker in Tel Aviv protests against being refused refugee status (Photo: Flash 90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has attempted to block an official report on the country’s treatment of African asylum seekers.

Harel Locker, Mr Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff, urged the State Comptroller Joseph Shapira to restrict access to the document out of security concerns, as well as a fear that it could harm the country’s foreign relations.

Mr Shapira rejected the request on the grounds that no security issues were at stake.

The report, due out in May, is said to criticise the government’s lack of a cohesive policy in dealing with the tens of thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean migrants who are fleeing oppressive regimes.

It reveals that the 50,000 migrants are dubbed “infiltrators” and illegal job seekers by the government, and largely prevented from obtaining official refugee status.

In deprived areas, such as south Tel Aviv, where migrants are living in slum housing, residents blame both the authorities and the migrants for an increase in violent crime.

The completion of the security fence on the Israeli-Egyptian border last year has stemmed the flow of migrants, the country has struggled to meet the challenge of integrating the Africans into Israeli society. In 2013, the government allowed police to detain migrants indefinitely in a facility in the south of Israel.

Under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, refugees fleeing persecution are entitled to work, housing and medical treatment.

Last updated: 8:45pm, March 27 2014