Not a single African infiltrator illegally entered Israel by scaling the border fence with Egypt over the past six months, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority said Sunday, proving unfounded initial fears that a 2015 Supreme Court decision to shorten the mandatory detention period of infiltrators would lead to a new wave of illegal immigration.
Thousands of infiltrators had poured into Israel from the Sinai desert until the completion of the Israel-Egypt border fence in 2012, but only 302 have successfully made it over the fence and into Israel since then.
Israel’s Immigration Authority said Sunday that only 18 African infiltrators have entered the country without a permit since January, and none within the past six months.
As of the end of September, some 40,721 infiltrators who entered Israel without a permit were living in the country, including 29,367 Eritreans, 8,066 Sundanese, 2,780 from other African countries, and 508 from the rest of the world, the Immigration Authority says.
Under Israel’s Anti-Infiltration Law, “infiltrators” — a government term for illegal migrants — can be held in Saharonim detention center for up to three months, after which he or she will be moved to the Holot detention facility for a period of up to 20 months.
Since infiltrators are not permitted to work, many have been pressured into leaving the country through a “voluntary departure” program in which Israel provides a $3,500 grant and free plane ticket to a third country – – often back in Africa.
The Immigration Authority said that the number of infiltrators voluntarily leaving Israel had increased slightly this year, with 2,798 having left the country as of September. Of those who left, 81 percent were Eritreans.
Human rights organizations have criticized the government program, claiming it is not “voluntary departure” when the only other alternative to staying in Israel is incarceration.