Israel’s Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority has released dramatic statistics reflecting how effective the construction of a border fence has been at stemming the entry of illegal migrants seeking to cross the border from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
According to the government, the number of illegal entries has declined from the thousands in each recent year to just several dozen this year.
In January, Israel finished building the main portion of the 16-foot high fence, which is made of razor wire and reinforced by military surveillance, including motion sensors and cameras, aimed at keeping out both illegal African migrants and terrorists operating in the Sinai.
According to the most recent quarterly figures published by the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, 36 people have been caught trying to enter the southern border since January.
It's an incredible drop after 10,440 were caught in 2012, 17,298 in 2011 and 14,715 in 2010. In the years before that, the numbers were lower but still in the thousands. Beyond the 36 people who were caught at the border during 2013, another 59 who successfully crossed into Israel were detained by immigration authorities elsewhere in the country.
Even without reading Hebrew, one can see the dramatic drop in the number of people caught trying to enter Israel's southern border from 2012 to 2013. (Chart: Israeli Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has touted the efficacy of the security fence, saying in July, “The fence has completely stopped illegal migration to Israel, but it also has an additional function, namely counterterrorism.”
Encouraged by the success of the southern border fence, Israel has plans to erect fences along the Syrian and Jordanian borders, largely due to security concerns.
Last week, the Hebrew newspaper Maariv reported that Netanyahu had ordered construction of a fence in the Jordan Valley that would leave Israeli forces in control of the border with Jordan even if the Palestinians established an independent state in the West Bank.
The fence along the Israel-Egypt border built over several years cost an estimated $377 million, according to the Times of Israel. The Algemeiner reported that the main section of the fence – a 143-mile stretch – took two years to build.
The issue of the illegal immigration is controversial in Israel, with supporters saying they should be granted asylum and allowed to remain in the state. The government has debated policies to encourage those who have managed to enter Israel to leave, including offering them financial a reward in exchange for their deportation and long-term detention.
Israel’s High Court of Justice in September struck down a proposed “infiltrator law” under which illegal migrants could be detained for up to three years without trial.