Israel to crack down on African migrants

Israeli police have ordered the mass arrests of African migrants who have entered Israel illegally.

Berti Ohayon, the head of police operations, called this week for arresting 300 migrants a day over the next week and preparing more than 2,000 places for them to be detained in Israeli prisons.

The instructions include orders for the Foreign Ministry to find a solution for dealing with the problem of African migrants from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties.

This could mean that Sudanese could possibly be deported, activists working on behalf of the migrants say.

Miki Bavli, the head of The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel, wrote Ohayaon in response, “Removal of Sudanese to Sudan is a breach of the convention that Israel has signed in its most serious form – this will represent a crime that has not yet been committed to date.”

More than 2,000 Sudanese have crossed the border into Israel in the past two years. Those who escaped persecution in Darfur, about 600, have been granted special governmental permission to receive temporary residency status.

Some 7,000 Africans have entered the country illegally in the past year via Egypt. About 2,000 have come since the beginning of 2008.

Yonatan Berman, a lawyer representing the Hotline for Migrant Workers, said in reaction to the crackdown, “We regret that the panic among the Israeli authorities has reached a new climax. This has resulted in what we view as dangerous and irrational actions.”

In response to the criticism, Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said the police plans were based on a government decision made Sunday that migrants who entered the country illegally without U.N. protection should be deported.

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