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Legal Foreigners are being Thrown Out
Thousands of foreign workers have been deported from Israel, even though they had legal work permits. Such deportations result from actions taken by overzealous Immigration Police officials, says Police Superintendent Dekel Muskato, who served until recently as Immigration Police deputy commander for the northern district. He claims some of these police officials forged reports of their activities.
Muskato disclosed these allegations in a conversation with Assaf Grati, a former employee in the Interior Ministry's foreign workers department in the northern district, who was responsible for issuing imprisonment and deportation orders. The former Interior Ministry worker says he was dismissed from his job this week because he blew the whistle about irregularities and corruption in his ministry department and in the Immigration Police force. The conversation with Muskato was held in early May; it was taped, and excerpts from it were broadcast a few weeks ago on Israel Radio. As a result of the broadcast, Muskato was dismissed from his post by Immigration Police Major General Berty Ohayon.
Muskato was detained for four months on suspicion that he took bribes from workers from China, in exchange for authorizing their stay in Israel. No indictment has been issued against him in this matter.
"Interior Ministry delegates were deliberately fooled by the immigration police, on all levels," says Muskato in a conversation transcript which has reached Haaretz. "Thousands of legal workers have been deported from Israel ... as a result of the intervention of Immigration Police in matters where it was forbidden for them to intervene."
Muskato explained how such deportations of legally registered foreigners are carried out. "You go into a home where there are 20 Chinese, and you don't make the slightest effort to attain their passports. You bring such a worker to the Interior Ministry [without a passport], knowing that had he come with a passport he would not be deported. In this way, you fool the Interior Ministry delegate. That's because one criterion used in determining whether or not a person stays in the country is whether or not he has a passport."
During this conversation, Muskato implied that attorneys and other Israelis have in some instances brought the passports of detained foreign workers to the Immigration Police, only to have the passports hidden away by the police officials.
Later in the discussion, Muskato said: "If you're asking whether foreign workers are beaten - yes, they are beaten up."
Yesterday, Haaretz reported that a senior Interior Ministry official, Ilan Elad, accused the Immigration Police in a letter of concealing passports and other information, and making false arrests, in order to reach quotas set by the government for the deportation of foreign workers. Publication of this letter, which was sent to Immigration Police commander Amir Gal, stirred strong responses yesterday. "I am outraged by the fact that in earlier discussions I was misled by police officers. As it turns out foreign workers who have legal permits are indeed detained and perhaps even deported," said MK Ran Cohen (Yahad), who chairs a Knesset committee on foreign worker affairs. He said he intends to convene an urgent committee meeting on this topic of deportations of foreigners who have legal authorization to work in Israel.