How Many Refugees Are There?

The government propaganda would have you believe that the refugee problem is this huge threat to our identity as a Jewish nation. The numbers don’t show that is the case at least not for now. I will devote at least one entire blog on “what will happen if we treat them well and they all come?” But that is not this entry. This is a short blog with just the current official government numbers.

  • 57,000 is the approximate number of refugees currently in Israel. The majority are Eritrean (35,900), with approximately 15,000 Sudanese.
  • 75,000 is the number of legal migrant workers. This includes construction and agricultural workers, mostly from the Far East. The government mandates these workers and takes a hefty tax on each one who is brought here.
  • 95,000 is the number of people who just outstayed their visas. These are people who are not refugees, who have passports, and who came here looking for work. This is a bit of a mixed bag, but to my understanding, mostly people from Eastern Europe. This blog series won’t touch on the traffic in women, but obviously, this category covers that situation as well.

So there you have it. Looking at the numbers, it would appear that the refugees aren’t our biggest problem, and that there is something else behind the scare tactics to demonize them.

Refugees: What We All Agree On

November 1st, I visited the sites where they are building detention centers for refugees and other types of “infiltrators” to Israel. The trip was organized by a few of the human rights organizations, and altogether some 50 journalists, activists and other interested parties were invited. It was fascinating and there are so many facets to this issue that it will take me several blog posts to cover everything.

What struck me most is that the issue is not controversial. In fact, pretty much everyone agrees on the following:

  1. It is wrong to jail innocent people.
  2. Our country needs to grant refugee status and work permits to people who are legitimate refugees. It is in our interest to provide health services and education to them as well.
  3. It is a good idea to find places to work and housing for these people throughout the country rather than just letting them congregate in the worst neighborhoods of Tel Aviv.
  4. The main concern for Israel and Israelis is what would happen if, due to our treating them like human beings, more refugees came to our border. Africa is big. Really big. We are a small country.

Depending who you talk to, people will give different interpretations and hues of these four points, for example, the people who live in the nearby Tel Aviv neighborhoods will stress moving them out of the city, whereas the human rights groups will emphasize giving them legal status and health care.

Regardless of the emphasis, though, everyone with familiarity with the situation agrees on these points. Ok, let me take that back. There are specific people in our government who do not agree on these points, specifically, the people making the decisions.

But if you ask the average citizen, they will agree with these points. Unfortunately, most of them will start with point 4, which is a testament to the government’s sweeping success in its propaganda campaign against the refugees.

So let me start with that. What if the rest of Africa comes to stay in Israel, because we allowed refugees to have a decent life here? OK, that is a stupid way to start. That’s the one question I don’t have an answer for. Ok, I have an answer. My answer is “so what”.

So what?

I don’t mean “so what” in a flippant way. I just mean, the fact that other refugees may want to come here is simply not a justification for throwing 20,000-60,000 innocent people in jail. Right now some of our jails hold the people who came across the border and are too weak to handle being thrown on the street in Tel Aviv. Our government decided to just leave them in the jails near the Southern border. I’ve certainly heard people say to me “Well, what would you have us do?” Not having any better plan isn’t a good enough reason to keep them in jail, either.

The current problem is manageable. We are talking about fewer than 60,000 people. It is not a threat to our nation’s identity as a Jewish state.

The right thing to do is agreed upon. Give people work permits. Whether you should do more than that is a question of self-interest. I would argue that it is in our self-interest to subsidize their learning English or Hebrew, and giving them work training.

I’ll go deeper into each of the issues, and more, in future posts.

I’m an Org

Welcome to RebeccaRachmany.org. I’m an Org now. What that means is that instead of talking about business and marketing, which is what I do at www.rebeccarachmany.com. I’m going to keep doing that, because I am all into paying my mortgage.

Here I will be talking mostly about activism, but also about other stuff that doesn’t belong on my business blog.

It all started when I started doing work to stop the mistreatment of refugees in Israel. I started doing that because somewhere around 1947, we Jews promised that we would never tolerate racist persecution again in this world, which seemed like a good idea at the time. We Jews also walked around wishing we would have a normal country, a country like the European countries. Abba Ebben, in his autobiography, at this time, reads a newspaper in Geneva where the front page article is about a man getting injured in a bicycle collision, and wishes for the country where that’s the front page news.

People don’t ride a lot of bicycles here, but this weekend, the top headline was a fatal motorcycle accident. Not bad. From nothing to an OECD  country in 65 years. Not too shabby.

As a normal country, we have all the normal problems normal countries have, like refugees are coming to our border all of a sudden. They are walking across the desert from Sudan and Eritrea.

In those 60 years, nobody made any reasonable laws about refugees, although we were signed on the UN resolutions on refugees. Like I said, seemed like a good idea at the time. But we didn’t want to talk to much about, it, you know, because there are Palestinian refugees and we didn’t envision any other kind of refugee wanting to live in Israel.

Not that the Sudanese and Eritreans don’t necessarily want to live in Israel, but it beats jail or a refugee camp, apparently. And we have no provisions for handling this situation. So here we are. I’ll talk here about the situation and what we are putting together, as a group of concerned citizens, to raise public awareness about this issue.

Thanks for tuning in!