The following letter to the editor appears in the Washington Post:
Regarding the Nov. 3 news article “Israel closing its doors to illegal African migrants”:
The Post presented accusations that Israel is violating human rights by refusing to distinguish between illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.
The charge is simply untrue. Israel, the only developed country with a common border with Africa, has attracted many thousands of illegal migrants. The vast majority of these are men seeking work, not asylum. Since Israel cannot easily repatriate them – Sudan, for example, refuses to recognize our existence – they are accommodated at centers that provide full health services and free education, as well as humanitarian protection for those in need. Israel not only meets U.N. requisites on illegal migrants but exceeds them.
Some 65,000 migrants are currently in Israel, posing serious social and economic challenges for a country of 8 million. Still, we welcome those Africans who genuinely seek asylum, just as we formerly sheltered refugees from Bosnia and Vietnam.
Over the past six months, The Post has published two other pieces on this subject – the July 24 news story “In Israel, African migrants face backlash over assaults” and the July 25 op-ed column “Israel confronts a flood.” Like this month’s article, they were similarly misleading. Such focus is odd if not disturbing.
Aaron Sagui, Washington
The writer is the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in the United States.