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Ben-Gurion Airport Faces Security Breaches and Illegal Entry Issues

Israeli Judge Highlights Alarming Infiltration Issues Amid Lax Enforcement.

A Detention Review Tribunal judge has sounded the alarm on the ease of infiltrating Israel and the lack of stringent punishment, following a case involving a Georgian infiltrator who entered Israel illegally twice through a security breach at Ben-Gurion Airport. Judge Assaf Noam’s June 20, 2024, ruling highlighted the severity of this issue, emphasizing the urgent need for stricter enforcement.

The infiltrator, who paid smugglers $5,000 initially and $7,000 later, used forged documents to stay and work in Israel. She even attempted to legalize her status through a Zoom marriage to an Israeli citizen but was arrested when her application was invalidated. Despite her appeals against deportation being rejected, an interim order from the District Court delayed her removal by 14 days. Judge Noam insisted she remain in custody due to the gravity of her actions.

Judge Noam also raised concerns about the broader issue of repeated infiltration through Ben-Gurion Airport and the insufficient enforcement against repeat offenders. Attorney Yonatan Jakubowicz from the Israeli Immigration Policy Center and Sabine Hadad, spokesperson for the Population and Immigration Authority, shared their insights on the matter with The Media Line.

Hadad admitted that the exact number of illegal immigrants entering Israel through Ben-Gurion Airport is unknown. “Every year we see about 200 people who try to cross the border like this. That is only those people who we manage to stop,” she said. Jakubowicz confirmed that the real numbers could be much higher, potentially reaching into the thousands.

Jakubowicz noted that while most of these immigrants come from Georgia, individuals from Eastern European countries and Kazakhstan also exploit these breaches. He expressed significant security concerns, warning that if economic migrants can enter easily, criminals or terrorists might also exploit these vulnerabilities.

Although there are no specific cases of terrorists using these routes, Jakubowicz pointed out that some individuals use criminal networks, sometimes involving immigrants themselves, to enter illegally. Despite these concerns, Hadad emphasized that the majority of these immigrants come to Israel seeking work.

Hadad described the methods used by these immigrants: “Over the past year, they have become very prepared. Upon landing in Israel, they change in the airport bathrooms into airport uniforms or the clothing of religious people before passing through passport control.” This tactic allows them to blend in with airport workers and evade detection.

Jakubowicz criticized the lenient prosecutions for such violations in Israel. “The government just sends them back, even buying tickets at its own expense. Thus, migrants can try their luck, and in the worst-case scenario, they’ll be sent home,” he explained. He argued for criminal prosecution to deter illegal entry, stating that people should face sentences before being deported.

Israel currently lacks a robust system for punishing illegal entry, with the courts not viewing it as a severe violation. Although the law prescribes up to five years for illegal entry, the actual enforcement often results in minimal penalties, such as two months of community service. This leniency undermines efforts to deter illegal immigration.

Jakubowicz also highlighted the challenges in addressing this issue amid ongoing security concerns and political instability. With the legal system stronger than the government, and the courts not prioritizing illegal immigration as a serious crime, significant enforcement changes are unlikely in the near future.

The need for enhanced security measures at Ben-Gurion Airport is clear, as is the necessity for stricter enforcement to deter illegal entry. Ensuring the safety and integrity of Israel's borders is paramount. Share this article or subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed.