The Isreali government is hiring civilians and paying them 30,000 shekels (or 8,845 dollars) to capture illegal African refugees and immigrants, as the middle eastern state intensifies efforts to expel Africans seeking refuge within its borders.
The civilians hired would be referred to as “immigration inspectors”. Isreal’s Population and Immigration Authority said, in an advertisement, that it would pay the amount, which runs into 3.2 million naira to its inspectors because expelling the African migrants was a matter of “national importance”.
Their duties will involve detecting suspected illegal immigrants and refugees, investigating them, and arresting them.
Prior to this, these “enforcement tasks” were the duty of the country’s law enforcement and immigration authorities to start in March 2018.
playThis photo shows African migrants gathering before their release from the Holot detention centre in Israel. (AFP/File)
In April, a month after, Israel plans to start the process of returning migrants to their country of origin or a third country, as long as they leave Israel.
No room for refugees
This new development comes as the Israel government has emphasised its intentions to rid the country of African immigrants.
Over the past few months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken on Isreali and World media of how the country is struggling to deal with the ‘weight’ of the immigrant population.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, East and Central Africans make up a large chunk of the immigrants in Israel.
There are 27,000 Eritreans and 7,700 Sudanese in Israel, with the vast majority of them saying they fled war, persecution, and getting conscripted into various armies or militias.
This is not the first time Israel is clamping down on illegal immigrants. In 2012, 50 Nigerians were deported from the country according to Vanguard.
Reasons for the deportation ranged from no work permit, illegal stay and other miscellaneous reasons. The deportation of Nigerians involved arresting Nigerians along with their families and placing them in detention camps.
playIsrael’s Benjamin Netnyahu has emphasised his intentions to rid the country of migrants. (POOL/AFP/File)
However, African migrants are seen as the very dirt of the earth by Israelis. Israeli officials have called them “infiltrators” and a “cancer”.
Migrants leave Africa for various reasons. In Nigeria, educational tourism is one of the major reasons why Nigerians leave the country for Europe, to study in institutions of higher learning under better working and living conditions.
However, there is a belief that Africans only come to Israel in search of economic opportunities. In a country that guards its culture dearly, there is a fear that if Africans are allowed to settle down, they will constitute a threat to Israel’s social fabric and Jewish identity.
Despite this sentiment, recruiting citizens to capture refugees means Israel is taking this a bit more serious than we first thought.
A few weeks before this, Israel said it would purchase tickets for illegal African migrants, obtain travel documents, and give them $3,500 to leave the country.
The migrants were also told that they would be arrested if they remained in the country beyond March.
Understandably, human rights advocates around the world have criticised Israel’s plan to deport the refugees.
playDetained African migrants spend their free time at a makeshift outdoor cafe at the Holot Detention Centre. (AFP/File)
Nearly 500 academics have interfered asking Netanyahu to give them jobs and help them settle. Some rabbis, the ministers of the Jewish religion, Judaism, have said they will hide the refugees.
Europe’s migrant crisis
The situation in Israel is not strange or unusual. In the past few years, hundreds of thousands of Africans have fled the continent through Libya to escape political violence, war and economic hardship.
Europe, on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar, a body of water which separates Africa from Europe, has faced the brunt of this emigration. The migrant crisis in Europe has reached such epic proportions that in countries like France and Poland, it has altered the tone and outcome of presidential elections.
Countries like Spain have built insurmountable walls to prevent crafty, desperate Africans from scaling its borders.
It is difficult to deny that this is a real problem for these countries, the prospect of hundreds of thousands entering countries where they have no jobs, no cultural affiliation and nothing of immediate value to balance the cost of giving them a new home.
playAfrican migrants plead to be allowed to stay. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)
Yet, it is ironic that Israel would go through extreme measures to make its point clear, considering the Holocaust, that black spot on its history when the survival of many Jews was dependent on the European families who sheltered them.
When its all said and done, the blame can only come home. People are leaving because African nations hold few prospects for them.
Ever now and then, our screens are plastered with videos of Nigerians and other Africans who have died either on their way to Libya or in the water trying to cross into Europe.
But even though they are aware of the perils of the trip, thousands of Africans leave every week in a desperate bid to leave behind the troubles of the continent of their birth.
It is difficult to chastise a person’s choices when they live in a place where opportunity is a scarce commodity.
Israel would do well to be more empathetic but Africa’s leaders must do even more to create a home that their people can live in.