Israel implements plan to expel African migrants

Israelis take part in a demonstration titled the "March of Shame", as they protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and government corruption in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on December 23, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Israel implements plan to expel African migrants

JERUSALEM: Israel on Wednesday began implementing a plan to force tens of thousands of African migrants out of the country by April, threatening to arrest those who stay.
“This plan will get under way today,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.
Under the program, some 38,000 migrants who entered Israel illegally, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese, will have until the end of March to leave.
Each will receive a plane ticket and $3,500 (2,900 euros) to do so. After the deadline, this amount will decrease and those who continue to refuse to go will face arrest.
Holot, an open facility in Israel’s desert south that can host 1,200 migrants who are allowed to leave to work during the day, is also set to be closed.
It currently holds 970 people, the interior ministry said this week.
The plan was originally approved by the cabinet in November, drawing concern from the UN refugee agency.

Wednesday’s cabinet session marked the program’s transition from the planning stage to action, migrant aid worker Adi Drori-Avraham told AFP.
“We see here the implementation of the decision,” said Drori-Avraham of the Tel Aviv-based Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel (ASSAF).
The Africans currently hold short-term residence visas which must be renewed every two months.
“From today when a person goes to request an extension to their visa, if he does not have a pending asylum application... his visa will not be renewed and he will be given a deportation order,” she added.
She said that under the new regulations there was also an option for the authorities “not even to threaten them with a choice of voluntary departure or jail, simply to seize them and take them to a plane.”
“At the moment there are exceptions for women, children, parents of children and victims of human trafficking, but the procedural rules make it clear that those exemptions are only temporary,” she added.
In his comments to the cabinet and media, Netanyahu defended the plan.
“Every country must maintain its borders, and protecting the borders from illegal infiltration is both a right and a basic duty of a sovereign state,” he said.
But Tsgahans Goytiom, a 30-year-old Eritrean in south Tel Aviv, said he felt that he and his fellow refugees were being treated like commodities.
“I see the situation now as very bad and difficult,” he told AFP in Hebrew. “We are being traded.”
“I am not from Uganda or Rwanda,” he added. “How come the prime minister decided to send people to other countries?“
Israel tacitly recognizes that the Sudanese and Eritreans cannot be returned to their dangerous homelands, so it has signed deals with Rwanda and Uganda, which agree to accept departing migrants on condition they consent to the arrangement, activists say.
A 2016 UN commission of inquiry into Eritrea’s harsh regime found “widespread and systematic” crimes against humanity and said an estimated 5,000 people flee the country each month.
The International Criminal Court has indicted Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide related to his regime’s counter-insurgency tactics in the 14-year-old conflict in Darfur.
Migrants started coming in large numbers across the porous border between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in 2007, when nearly 5,000 entered, interior ministry figures show.
The government has since completed fencing the border and deploying electronic sensors. In the first six months of last year, no one made it across.
Over the years, those caught at the Egyptian frontier were detained at prisons in the Negev desert in southern Israel.
On release they were given bus tickets to Tel Aviv, arriving at the central bus station on the south side of the city, where many have since remained.
Israeli residents of southern Tel Aviv have long complained of their presence and right-wing politicians have pledged to heed calls to force them out, often with harsh rhetoric.
During a visit there in August, Netanyahu pledged to “return south Tel Aviv to the citizens of Israel,” adding that the Africans were “not refugees but illegal infiltrators.”


Jordanians fight back against terrorism

King Abdullah and Crown Prince Hussein during their visit to the Gendarmerie and Public Security Directorates headquarters in Amman on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Jordanians fight back against terrorism

  • Militants from Daesh and other radical groups have long targeted Jordan and dozens of militants are serving long prison terms
  • Jordanian security forces have been extra vigilant having warned that sympathizers of Daesh could launch revenge attacks after militants were driven out of most of the territory

JEDDAH: The terrorist attacks in Jordan over the weekend shocked the country but the people support the security agencies in countering extremist ideologies, political analysts told Arab News on Tuesday.
The chain of events in Jordan began on Friday when assailants detonated a homemade bomb under a police car guarding a music festival in the predominantly Christian town of Fuheis, west of the capital, Amman. The blast killed a police officer.
Security forces chasing the Fuheis suspects raided a multi-story building in the nearby town of Salt on Saturday.
The militants opened fire and set off explosives, killing four members of the security forces and collapsing part of the building. Three suspects were killed and five were taken into custody.
The assailants had hoarded large quantities of explosives that were apparently intended for attacks on civilians in public places and on security installations. The explosives “were ready, on a timer, and could be detonated immediately,” government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
According to university professor and geopolitical analyst Amer Sabaileh, the attack in Fuheis and the subsequent clashes in the city of Salt indicated that the terrorists were currently targeting the security services.
“The explosive device planted under a security patrol’s vehicle in Fuheis did not target civilians, although there were large numbers participating in the Fuheis Festival. They insisted on sending a clear message that the target of terrorism at this stage are the security services,” Sabaileh said.
This trend indicated that there was an internal decision among the members of these terrorist organizations that the “enemy” was the security members but not civilians.
This puts the members of the security services in direct confrontation with this pattern of terrorism, which was clearly evident in other countries where the security services were targeted directly, he said.
However, this did not mean that the terrorists might not also target civilians in the future.
Sabaileh praised the timely security operation to unveil and swiftly counter the terrorist cell behind the Fuhais attack in less than 24 hours.
“The logical reading of the events of Salt indicates the high effectiveness of the anti-terrorism squad at the Jordanian intelligence department, which was able to read the facts of the Fuheis attack and identify the people and the point of their presence very quickly,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said, the high number of casualties among the security task force that responded to the terrorists requires the Jordanian authorities to revise all security plans, training and tactics.
Officials said on Monday that the suspected militants who killed members of Jordan’s security forces over the weekend were Jordanian citizens who support the ideology of the Daesh group but did not have proven links to foreign funding or foreign extremist organizations.
“It is clear that all the conferences, seminars and funds spent on strategies and plans to combat extremism and terrorism, and the establishment of a special unit (the anti-extremism unit), were in vain and had no real value, and this requires those responsible to reconsider all training programs and anti-terrorism strategies,” he said.
Hassan Barari, a professor of political science at the University of Jordan, said that there were lessons to be learnt from the recent attacks.
“First, there is a consensus among Jordanians that the stability and security of the country is a top priority. The solidarity expressed by Jordanians is a statement of a strong domestic front, and this should be reinforced by sound policies by the government,” Barari said.
“Second, there is a pressing need to nip radicalism in the bud. We all know that there are some incubating environments for radicalism in at least three sites in Jordan. Given the gravity of the situation, the government should adopt a deradicalization strategy. True, the security approach is a key pillar for this strategy; yet, it is far from being sufficient,” he said.
He underlined that many young Jordanians were susceptible to radicalization due to their perception of the weakness of the current political reality and a lack of a stake in the political order, and it was time to admit that there was an ideological component to this that could not be confronted by force alone.
On Tuesday, King Abdullah visited the General Directorate of the Gendarmerie and the General Security Directorate, where he said: “We are not worried about the security of our country’s present and future. Our society rejects the extremist ideas and those carrying it and trying to force it on our society.”