|Paper 81: Undocumented Migrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Israel|
|Written by Bruno Oliveira Martins|
In recent years, especially since 2006, the mass influx of African undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees into Israel has presented the country with a complex set of challenges. Although a country of migrants, this new trend, which saw the arrival in Israel of more than 13 000 undocumented African migrants over the last three years, brought the Israeli migration reality more in line with the challenges currently faced by EU. The inefficient response has revealed the country’s difficulties in addressing this issue, as well as the inadequacy of its legal framework towards undocumented migrants.
The fact that the major migration phenomenon experienced by Israel has become increasingly similar to the EU’s, should help bring greater attention to this issue within EU-Israel relations. The timely coincidence between recent efforts to redraw the EU common approach to migration and Israel’s revision of its legal framework concerning migration strengthens the argument for a deeper co-operation between the two parties, especially at a time when a new version of the EU-Israel Action Plan is being discussed.
In certain specific areas, the EU’s experience in dealing with migration issues could provide Israel with useful practical information, whereas Israel’s long tradition in absorbing immigrants could feed into European efforts to build a much-needed effective policy in what regards migration movements through its southern border. The regional dimension is thus also pivotal: dealing efficiently with this test-case issue (namely, that of African non-Jewish undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Israel) requires a co-ordinated effort between the country of departure (usually Egypt) and the country of destination (Israel).
Against this backdrop, and with the Mediterranean as the geographic context in which this new route in trans-national migration operates, the EU would appear to provide the necessary framework and instruments to tackle this challenge, whether this framework emerges from an EU-Israel bilateral context or a BPUfM multilateral approach.
This report was conducted under the auspices of the Centre for the Study of European Politics and Society (CSEPS) at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, and The Royal Institute for International Relations (EGMONT), Brussels. The author, Bruno Oliveira Martins, carried out his research in Israel within the framework of the EuroMeSCo Exchange Facility.
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