News / Africa

Israel Seeks to Stem Flow of Non-Jewish African Migrants Across Porous Border

The migrants, mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan's Darfur, are trying to find jobs in Israel, but Israeli leaders view this as a threat to security and to the Jewish character.

Multimedia

Audio

In the coming days, Israel's cabinet will consider an initiative to reinforce the Jewish State's 240-kilometer border with Egypt.  The aim is to stem the flow of thousands of illegal migrants who Israeli officials say are crossing the porous border and entering the Jewish State. The migrants are mainly from the African nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia, and many are Muslims from the Darfur region of Sudan.  They go to Israel seeking jobs and safety.  For Israel's leaders, they represent a threat to security - and to the Jewish character of a country established as a safe haven for Jews from around the world.

Ahmed Badawi Batran, originally from Darfur in Sudan, is among the 19,000 people who Israeli officials say have entered Israel illegally.  He tells a familiar story, saying he left Sudan in hopes of finding work and a better life for his family.

He says he and his wife went to Egypt looking for work.  There, he says he got the idea of coming to Israel from friends who had succeeded in entering the Jewish State. From here, they said he could go on to Canada, Australia, or America. That, he says, is why he came here.

He now holds a temporary visa that he is able to renew every three months.  He, his wife and their six children have settled into a modest apartment in a rundown district of Tel Aviv near the city's bus station.

Ahmed, like thousands of others, braved the journey across the Sinai desert, dodging Egyptian border guards who routinely shoot and kill those caught trying to cross to Israel. 

On Israel's border with Egypt is the Israeli community of Kadish Barnea.  Residents Avishai and Jolanda Pinchas, sitting on a porch on their sprawling property, look across a few hundred meters to an Egyptian guard tower and the barbed wire fence that marks the border.

They say they often awakened at night by the sound of gunfire.

"You know how many times they kill refugees here?   It's horrible," Avishai Pinchas said. "When we hear these things, we know things are going on very close by. We can really hear it. Many times."

The couple in the past have taken in scores of hungry and injured Sudanese migrants and allowed them to stay in some bungalows on their property. At one point, they provided food, medicine, and shelter to as many as 55 men, women, and children.

They stopped doing so after Israeli border police started the practice of picking up migrants and taking them to a detention center where they are kept while authorities check to make sure they are not terrorists. 

The flow of migrants has continued. Officials say they are crossing at a rate of several hundred per week. Once past the Egyptian border guards, the migrants wait along the highway for Israeli police to pick them up and take them to the detention center.

One reason so many people can cross is the border fence is in some places nothing more than a single line of barbed wire.  On some stretches, the fence disappears under the sand, buried by the dunes.

Some Israelis say it is no border at all, and certainly not enough to protect a nation faced with constant terrorist threats.

This is one reason why the Pinchas welcome news of government plans to reinforce it.

"Who knows what kind of stuff has been going over, also like weapons or things like that," Jolanda Pinchas said. "We don't know. But it's open for everything right now.  Israel I think needs to do something about the border."

Her husband, Avishai, says a beefed up border may at least end the violence against migrants that he has witnessed firsthand. 

"We have so many sad stories about this border, what's going on here," Avishai Pinchas said. "You know what?  For their health, for their life, it's better for them either to stay there and not to try to cross to be beat and killed. Women and all kinds of (people) get killed there. And I feel sad about this. It's horrible."   
 
Once in the country, life for Sudanese immigrants is not easy.

Ahmed has not been able to find steady work.  He says Israelis have been kind to him and his children are getting an education as well as healthcare benefits. However, the family can never consider this home. 

Israel welcomes Jewish immigrants, but Muslims like Ahmed are not eligible for citizenship.

Knowing there is no future here for his family, he says he wants to leave.  He says a reinforced fence may be a good thing, even if it is meant to keep out migrants like himself. 

He says it is true that a reinforced barrier at the border will not allow migrants like himself to enter," Batran said. "He says he, who has managed to enter Israel, wants to depart the country.  He wonders why others want to come here, and now sees no reason for it.

In their bid to stem illegal immigration, it is a message Israel's leaders hope will resonate deep in Africa.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid