Likud MK Miri Regev, known for her racist comments against asylum-seekers from Africa, said the lack of foreign workers was holding up critical building projects needed to ease a housing crunch. “There are only 8,000 foreign workers in Israel,” Regev wrote on her Facebook page. “This cap holds up the building reforms that the government itself is promoting.” There are currently 200,000 construction workers in Israel, according to “Haaretz” newspaper, including 5,500 workers from China, Moldova, and Bulgaria.
According to Regev, the head of the builders’ employers union said that Israel needed another 34,000 foreign workers in order to keep up with this year’s goal of 60,000 new housing units. Regev has sparked controversy in the past for inflammatory statements against African asylum seekers, including a statement in which she called Sudanese migrants “a cancer in our body.” Regev also sponsored a bill that would allow the government to keep migrants in holding facilities for a year.
Hadash MK Dov Khenin assailed Regev’s statement in light of her past positions. “Isn’t it incredible,” he wrote on his Facebook page, that the MK “who calls for the expulsion of tens of thousands of asylum-seekers from Israel — who everyone knows face life-threatening danger — calls at the same time to import tens of thousands of other foreign workers?” “This revolving door policy comes at the expense of the residents of neighborhoods with concentrations of asylum-seekers who can’t work, and comes at the expense of the asylum-seekers imprisoned without trial instead of allowing them to work while they are here, something that would allow a more sensible geographical dispersion,” he wrote.
While most African asylum seekers in Israel say they are seeking refugee status, the neo-liberal and right-wing Israeli government has remained firm in its stance that the vast majority of the 60,000 are not refugees. The plight of the African migrants rose to the forefront lately after a series of large protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in last month. On Wednesday, refugees in Europe, the US and Canada protested outside Israeli embassies in solidarity with asylum-seekers, who demand the Israeli government consider their request to become refugees.