Project title:

The Israeli deportation regime: drawing the borders of a national siege mentality.

Short description:

A leading principal in the practice of the Israeli state is maintaining a dominant national Jewish identity by ensuring a Jewish majority within the national borders at all means. This is a twofold effort: it involves encouraging international Jewry to immigrate and naturalise, while excluding and deporting non-Jews, by force or coercion, and preventing their naturalisation. My research focuses on the latter.

Israel’s deportation regime is a highly robust and effective one, binding the operations of various state authorities, with an extensive interpretation of international human rights law and asylum policies forming an implementation surplus. I document and analyse the operations of various governmental agencies and NGO’s composing the state’s deportation regime such as the population and immigration authority, detention centres, the RSD unit and the legal human rights arena.

My research seeks to answer questions such as: why do certain groups are deported while others are not? how does the national siege mentality translate into operational deportation measures? what is the role of street level agents and bureaucrats in designing deportation policies and practices? what is the contribution of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank to the operation of its deportation regime? how do external players such as civil-society organizations shape the operation of the state’s deportation mechanisms?

Immigration Authority Officials during a capture operation in Tel Aviv. (photo: ronny roman rozenberg)

Background information:

Since 2005, about 65,000 African refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered Israel by crossing the border from Egypt. Despite Israel’s history of prosecution, or as some suggest, precisely because of it, African asylum seekers have been given a hostile treatment and are broadly recognised as “illegal infiltrators” and as a security threat.


The state’s reaction to the influx of African asylum seekers was harsh, establishing a robust system of exclusion and deportation that includes: a 240 km fence along the border with Egypt, a massive new detention centre, a bureaucratic system in charge of identification, biometric registration, and an effective mechanism of coerced voluntary return program. Currently, Israel is the only developed state in which asylum seeking population is constantly reducing, that is, from 65,000 to some 40,000 in under five years[1].



In a striking contrast to the robust response of the state to the influx of African asylum seekers, Israel remains the only developed state which has no immigration policy[2]. The national perception of immigration law is based on the law of return, which grants any Jew the right to live in Israel and to gain Israeli citizenship. With no legal path for naturalisation for non-Jews, and a recognition rate of 0.04% in asylum requests, African asylum seekers and other non – Jewish residents in Israel are awaiting their deportation.



Additional readings on irregular migration control


[2] Avineri et al. (2009). Managing Global Migration: A Strategy for Immigration Policy in Israel. Ruth Gabizon (ed). Jerusalem.