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Israel Deports African Illegal Immigrants News Team


Hot Potato! Israel and Egypt fight over who gets stuck with African immigrants.

Tasfa Mara said he’s happy where he is. “Only Israel safe,” he said in patchy English, his hands and feet heavily bandaged from lacerations he suffered on the barbed-wire barricade between Egypt and Israel when crossing last week. “All African countries the same.” Mara may not have a safe haven much longer. This week Israel plans to begin deporting thousands of African migrants who have slipped in through the porous southern border with Egypt.

The Africans began trickling into Israel in 2005, after neighboring Egypt violently quashed a demonstration by Sudanese refugees, in which at least 27 were killed. The number of new arrivals has surged in recent months as word spread of safety and job opportunities in Israel. More than 7,000 have entered the country illegally in just over a year, including more than 2,000 this year alone, said Michael Bavly, a representative in Israel of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Since its independence in 1948, Israel has granted automatic citizenship to Jews, including many from Ethiopia. In recent years, however, it also has opened its doors to others, including tens of thousands of workers from Asia and Africa to fill a void left by Palestinian laborers banned from entering following the outbreak of fighting in 2000. Israel has about 7 million people, and the foreign workers traditionally do grueling manual jobs that Israelis are reluctant to do.

Egypt, the most likely destination, has made clear it does not want them. The African migrants said they paid about $750 to human traffickers to cross into Israel. Once inside, they were rounded up by army patrols, who either placed them in prison or released them. Many were bused to Tel Aviv, where volunteers often helped them.

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