Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the immediate deportation of Eritrean migrants involved in a recent violent confrontation in Tel Aviv.
The comments were made on Sunday, September 3rd, a day after violent clashes between opposing Eritrean factions in south Tel Aviv resulted in injuries to many. “We want harsh measures against the rioters, including the immediate deportation of those who took part,” said Netanyahu.
These clashes saw rival Eritrean factions – both supporters and detractors of the Eritrean government – engaged in street brawls using construction lumber, metal, and rocks as weapons. The resulting chaos left dozens injured, shop windows shattered, and police vehicles damaged.
In response, Israeli police, in full riot gear, deployed tear gas, stun grenades, and even live rounds, with mounted officers attempting to restore order. The violence brought Israel’s long-debated migrant issue back into the national spotlight.
Tensions are high as Israel grapples with Netanyahu’s controversial judicial overhaul plan. Some supporters of the plan are using the migrant issue as leverage, arguing that the judiciary has hindered the government’s efforts to manage the migrant situation.
Netanyahu’s comments not only emphasized the deportation of those directly involved in the riots but also indicated a broader initiative. He expressed the need for a comprehensive plan for the “removal of all the other illegal infiltrators,” referencing the Supreme Court’s decision to counteract certain measures designed to encourage migrants to leave.
Netanyahu’s tough stance, however, faces international legal challenges. Israel is bound by international law, which prohibits the forced return of migrants to regions where their lives or freedoms could be endangered.
As the Prime Minister gears up for an official visit to Cyprus, he has shed light on an impending initiative to deport up to 1,000 Eritrean government supporters implicated in the Tel Aviv violence.
Taking a hard line, he stated, “They have no claim to refugee status. They support this regime. If they support the regime so much, they would do well to return to their country of origin.”
Approximately 25,000 African migrants, predominantly from Sudan and Eritrea, currently reside in Israel. Many claim to have fled conflict or repression in their homeland.
However, the Israeli administration recognizes a few asylum seekers, predominantly viewing them as economic migrants. The nation has in the past used several methods to promote their departure, such as relocating some to a distant prison, withholding a portion of their salaries until they consent to leave, or providing monetary incentives to those willing to relocate to a different country in Africa.
Critics argue that the government is using these tactics to pressure migrants to leave. Some believe that, given Israel’s history and foundational values, the nation should be more welcoming to those in dire need. Others, however, argue that these migrants exacerbate crime rates in certain regions.