The phenomenon of non-citizen foreigners living inIsrael has gained widespread recognition because of the infiltrations on the Israeli southern border. Even so, it seems that the public discourse is deficient and is often influenced by manipulation and incomplete data. The purpose of this document is to summarize and organize the primary data and opinions on this topic and serve as a basis for a serious, productive discussion leading to policy. This document will not propose such policy; it will only present the facts and opinions of the various parties to the public discourse. Effort has been made to present the widest set of facts and a variety of opinions and their roots, with no attempt to reach a conclusion.
The document refers to three main groups of non-citizen foreigners in Israel:
1. Infiltrators: Foreigners who have illegally entered Israel on the Egyptian border and who were caught at the border or within the country.
2. Foreign workers: This group is sub-divided in two – foreign workers with valid work permits and foreign workers who entered Israel with valid work permits which have since expired.
3. Tourists without valid permits: Foreigners from underdeveloped countries who entered Israel as tourists and stayed without valid permits. It is thought that most of them work illegally.
The document shows that according to official statistics there are currently some 55,000 infiltrators in Israel and another 93,000 tourists without valid permits. There is debate about the number of foreign workers: the Population and Immigration Authority claims there are some 85,000 foreign workers in Israel while the Central Bureau of Statistics has the group at 110,000 strong.
The infiltrators have come almost entirely from African nations and the absolute majority is male: 85% of this group are adult males and the rest women and children. In contrast, the tourists without valid permits and the foreign workers are mainly citizens of Asiatic and Eastern European countries, evenly divided in terms of gender: some 52% are male and 48% female.
Beyond the statistics about non-citizen foreigners, this document presents the current arguments in Israeli discourse. The document presents the legal, moral, criminal, and medical basis of the public debate over the infiltrators and their absorption. Amongst the claims discussed: Is Israel obligated by the UN Charter to consider the infiltrators refugees? Is the crime rate amongst the infiltrators higher than normal? Do they represent a security threat? Do they represent a medical threat to the rest of the population? The document also presents the various claims about the economic impact of foreign workers and the question of whether their employment leads to unemployment for Israelis. Public discourse does not include any reference to tourists without valid permits, so the various claims about this group’s status are not presented here.