Ambassadors of African countries in Israel have expressed their concern over racial discrimination against African employees and migrants in Israel. According to Israeli media sources, Ghana's ambassador complained to Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon that his wife is picked on when she goes shopping.
"If that is what happens to an ambassador's wife, what are the rest of the Africans employed here supposed to do or say?" asked Henry Hanson-Hall. "Even I am afraid of being arrested or picked on."
The ambassadors of six countries met with Ayalon to discuss the issue of discrimination against African migrants and employees: the senior diplomats for Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast attended the meeting in Jerusalem. All told the minister that they are afraid of walking down the street for fear of being insulted by Israelis.
Reports said that there is a consensus among all African diplomats that Israel has the right to remove African migrants but, at the same time, they emphasised that migrants have to receive good treatment. They also said that the ill-treatment of Africans harms Israel's reputation in their home countries.
Mr Ayalon said that he appreciated the meeting with the African diplomats and that it is important for the Foreign Ministry to hear their views so that the problem can be solved together. He added that there has to be cooperation between Israeli and the African diplomats to facilitate the deportation of illegal migrants to their countries of origin in a "respectful and sensitive manner".
There are no clear statistics for the number of African migrants in Israel. Unofficial reports say that the figure is 90,000 but Israeli government reports put it at 62,000. Around 25,000 live in southern Tel Aviv, by far the greatest concentration of migrants in Israel. The rest are scattered around the country with, for example, only 1,100 in Jerusalem. Asylum seekers from the Sudan and Eretria make up 85 per cent of all migrants. Reports suggest that many migrants have not been accepted as asylum seekers, but have renewable identification documents until they are deported.
According to international law, migrants from the Sudan, Eretria and Congo should not be deported because their countries are areas suffering from armed disputes.
Networks of human traffickers based in Egypt, Israel and Europe help migrants to get to Israel as they flee from a dire economic situation or instability in their countries.
The Israeli government is trying to resolve this issue under the pretext of "preserving the Jewish identity" of the state. Right-wing and religious parties say that if migrants are not stopped, today's 60,000 will become 600,000 in a few years, in a total population of 7.8 million.