Crime rate among foreigners residing in Israel is on the rise, data complied by the Police Investigation and Intelligence department show.
According to the data, presented during a meeting held Monday by a special Knesset committee dealing with migrant workers, the number of criminal cases opened for foreigners has risen by 23% in 2011, reaching 2,400 – compared to an average of 2,000 in the years 2007-2010.
Most notably, the police saw a 54% increase in the number of criminal cases opened for illegal African refugees in 2011, compared to the previous year. About 47% of cases were opened for Eritrean migrants, while 19% were opened for Sudanese ones.
"The main reason is the rise in the number of border infiltrators, but that's not the only explanation," Superintendent Itay Kazaz said during the meeting. "Crime rates are growing regardless of the (migrants') increasing numbers."
'State bars migrants from working'
About half of the African migrants' cases were opened in the Tel Aviv District. Most were arrested for disturbances of public order, illegal gatherings, fights, gambling and knife possesion.
"It is not certain that the crime rates among foreigners are higher than those of the rest of the population," The chairman of the special Knesset committee, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), said.
"There is crime within the (African migrant) community and towards the community," he added. "The bottom line is the distress that must be dealt with. The State is waking up too late, and the government is helpless."
He noted that the police and Tel Aviv Municipality are dealing with budget shortages that prevent them from properly addressing the issue.
Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers stressed that the State bars the migrants from working, putting them in precarious situation.
"Crime does exist, but we must remember that this is a population that Israel prohibits from working, and arrives in the country heavily indebted to smugglers," she said. "It should be noted that the police opens a disproportionate amount of cases for Africans.
"Many times a hungry person commits a crime so he has something to eat," she added.
Shlomo Maslawi, a Tel Aviv councilman, said that the situation in south Tel Aviv neighborhoods is dire.
"People are stuck at home and need police to escort them to the grocery store," he said. "The crime rates have risen and the police doesn't have the ability to deal with it. Due to the restrictions, the police has given up dealing with southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods, where the crime is rampant and the lives of residents have turned into hell."