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Israeli PM mulls media campaign to deter African migration

(Xinhua)

11:23, July 12, 2012

JERUSALEM, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering launching a negative public relations campaign in African states that would seek to deter their citizens from attempting to illegally immigrate to Israel.

Netanyahu earlier this week directed officials of the National Information Directorate, a body which operates under the aegis of his office, to draft a proposal for a media campaign that would force would-be labor migrants to question the prudence of infiltrating into Israel.

Such a campaign would convey the message that the country is not hospitable to migrants by publicizing a government directive issued last month enabling immigration authorities to detain migrants caught on the Egyptian border for a period of up to three years at desert holding facilities.

The campaign would also highlight the fence being built along the border, which would be very difficult to penetrate upon its completion in early 2013.

Netanyahu has presented the idea to members of a forum staffed by representatives of government ministries who convene every two weeks to brief him on the pace of construction of the border fence and holding facilities for migrants, as well as on diplomatic efforts to deport them to their home countries, the Ha'aretz newspaper reported Wednesday.

Israel has implemented several measures in recent months aimed at stemming the flow of African migrants. More than 200 South Sudanese nationals were placed on flights to the capital Juba last month, but some 60,000 migrants, primarily from Eritrea and Sudan, still reside in Israel, according to the Population, Immigration and Border Authority.

The feasibility of Netanyahu's proposed PR campaign is unclear. One problem is that the media in Eritrea and Sudan is controlled by the government, while most people in those countries have limited or no access at all to the Internet.

Ha'aretz quoted a senior official familiar with the plan who voiced concern that such a campaign could potentially harm Israel' s image in Africa and the West.

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