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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More