Shayna Abramson

3 Myths about Asylum-Seekers, Debunked

They’re in Israel illegally.

It’s true that asylum seekers entered Israel illegally, however, once they are here, they are issued temporary resident visas by Israel, which must be renewed every few months. This means that they live here legally according to Israeli law, even if they originally entered legally. Additionally, according to international laws that Israel has agreed to, the asylum seekers have a right to not be sent back to their home country, and to not be sent to a dangerous country, which means that Israel is obligated to keep them unless it can find  a safe alternative. The horror stories from asylum seekers previously sent from Israel to Rwanda prove that it’s not safe. Since Israel has so far failed to find a safe alternative, Israel is legally obligated to keep the asylum seekers according to international law.

The Israeli economy can’t absorb them.

Actually, the Israeli economy has already absorbed them: Most of the asylum seekers facing deportation have been here for years, and many have jobs. As a matter of fact, Israel is concerned that sending them away will produce a labor shortage, and is preparing to issue work visas to Palestinians to fill the menial labor jobs that will be left open when the asylum seekers leave.

Expelling them will help south Tel Aviv.

South Tel Aviv is crime-ridden, poor, and over-crowded.The neighborhood’s story starts in the failures of properly integrating Mizrahi Jewish immigrants in the 50s and 60s, and continues with various Israeli economic, education, housing, and social welfare policies, continuing through the current day. Getting rid of any community will make the neighborhood less crowded, but why should the asylum seekers be the ones to go? And how does sending them out of Israel help south Tel Aviv more than dispersing them throughout Israel?

As for crime, according to police statistics, asylum seekers’ crime rates in south Tel Aviv are proportional to their makeup of the south Tel Aviv population — in other words, they’re not producing more crimes per person than other groups, and can’t be held responsible for the area’s high crime-rates.

Getting rid of asylum seekers won’t fix any of the structural problems that cause the south Tel Aviv residents to live in poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods. It will simply help them to live in slightly less crowded poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods. However, it allows the government to look like it cares about poor Mizrahim without actually doing anything to help them. It’s a way for the right-wing government to fool some of Israel’s most marginalized citizens by preying on marginalized non-citizens, in order to shore up its political base so it can win the next elections.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.
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