Record 19,000 tourists refused entry to Israel in 2018

Record 19,000 tourists refused entry to Israel in 2018
2 min read
28 December, 2018
Almost 19,000 tourists were refused entry to the country this year, a nine-fold jump from 1,870 people barred in 2011.
Turkish tourists return to Ataturk airport in July after being refused entry to Jerusalem [Getty]
Israeli immigration authorities are refusing entry to a skyrocketing amount of visitors, indicating the effect of stringent new laws against those who have displayed support for the BDS movement, figures from 2018 show. 

According to the analysis of immigration figures by Israeli newspaper Globes, of the 4 million tourists who arrived in Israel this year, almost 19,000 were refused admission by immigration authorities who deemed them liable to commit criminal or security offenses in Israel, or liable to work illegally.

This year's figures reflect a significant jump in the country's notoriously stringent border controls. While in 2016, 16,534 were barred from entering, only 1,870 were refused entry in 2011 - a nine-fold increase over the past seven years.

Part of this shift is due to the recent crackdown on visitors who have supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sactions (BDS) movement. In January 2017, the Israeli government passed a controversial law to bar entry to anyone "who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel".

The legislation targets activists promoting economic sanctions  against Israel due to the country's human rights abuses against Palestinians, and has seen huge momentum in recent years.

Read more: Italy’s far-right interior minister visits 'fascist-friendly' Israel

Access to the occupied Palestinian Territories is solely through Israel or Israeli-controlled border points, who also have the authority to refuse entry to anyone they deem a "security risk" to the state of Israel, including having supported the non-violent BDS movement.

Rigorous border checks have been aided by the social media boom, whereby immigration authorities can bar entry to someone on the grounds they professed online support for BDS, or expressed plans to work illegally in Israel on Facebook, for example.

Israel's Ben Gurion airport has its own detention centre where turned-away visitors are held before being sent back to their country of origin.

This draconian immigration process hit the headlines earlier this year when US student Lara Alqasem, of Palestinian origin, was refused entry at Ben Gurion airport on the grounds she was a BDS supporter. She was coming to Israel to undertake a one-year Masters programme at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The 22-year-old was detained but launched a successful legal campaign, whereby the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the ban after her final appeal, in which she rejected her past support for BDS.

Israel has also come under fire for what Amnesty International calls "cruel and illegal" deportations of mainly African asylum seekers seeking refuge in the Jewish state.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab