Israel’s African Problem
Over the past few years, Israel has seen a dramatic increase in immigration—not of Jews, but of migrants from African nations like Eritrea, Sudan, and Ivory Coast. According to some estimates, there are now approximately 60,000 African migrants living in Israel, and their presence has given rise to tensions, particularly in the poor Tel Aviv neighborhoods where many of them have settled.
Now the government has embarked on a crackdown—not the first but certainly the toughest so far—deporting hundreds of migrants from South Sudan, which it says is safe enough for them to return to. Migrants from Ivory Coast are up next: This past Thursday, the government announced they have two weeks to leave voluntarily. Israeli officials argue that the deportations are necessary because the migrants are a burden and a threat to the country’s Jewish majority. Critics say the policy violates human rights, not to mention Jewish values.
Itamar Mann has worked directly with Israel’s African migrants as a co-founder of We Are Refugees, an organization providing pro bono counsel to asylum-seekers in Israel. But he also views immigrant questions from a wider perspective. Mann is a lawyer and a doctoral student at Yale University studying the history of refugee policies in Europe, the United States, and Australia. Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry speaks with Mann about the underlying causes of, and possible solutions to, Israel’s immigrant situation.