Activist: 85 Percent of South Tel Aviv Births to Foreign Workers

An African laborer rides a bike carrying fabric along a main street in South Tel Aviv. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The extent to which Israel has “abandoned” south Tel Aviv to illegal foreign workers was evident in a contentious hearing of a special Knesset committee Tuesday, according to MK Miki Zohar (Likud). Testifying before the committee was Oved Hogy, a local neighborhood activist, who told MKs that for every ten births in south Tel Aviv, only 1.5 were Jewish children – with the rest births to families of migrant workers who have taken over large portions of the city.

“The state has abandoned the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv, and given them over to the illegal migrant workers,” said Mr. Zohar. “The responsibility for this state of affairs is on the national government, and on the government of Tel Aviv. The mayor of Tel Aviv has had a direct hand in this abandonment as well.” Representatives of the city were notably, and regrettably, absent from the discussion, MK Zohar noted.

Mr. Zohar, who was chairing the discussion of the special Knesset subcommittee on social equality, said that there had been a “shocking rise in the number of requests for asylum by migrant workers in recent months.” All these requests are made on the basis of political need, with asylum seekers claiming that they would be persecuted if they were sent back to their country of origin – mostly Eritrea and South Sudan, in the case of migrants who came to Israel. The state claims that most of those arriving come to seek work, and are not political refugees – but under international law, Israel cannot deport an asylum seeker who claims political persecution without a hearing to decide the legitimacy of the claim.

Social activist Hogy told MKs that there was now a de-facto “border” where Jews who were still living in the neighborhood sought to escape from. “The Prime Minister’s Office and the Interior Ministry treat south Tel Aviv as an area that has been ‘conquered,’” Mr. Hogy said. “There are 100,000 migrant workers in Israel, mostly in this area. They have a lot of children, and they … cement their presence here.” Hogy noted that Eritreans come to Israel because they are not welcome as refugees in Europe, as the European Union has declared that there is no reason for an Eritrean to leave his country due to political persecution.

Yosef Edelstein, a representative of the Population Authority, said that his office was trying hard to stem the problem, but that the courts had ruled in many cases that they could not deport individuals and families. In 2016, he said, the agency had managed to deport 16,000 people.