Israel – safe haven for criminals?

One of the FBI’s most wanted men, Micky Louis Mayon, managed to evade capture in Israel for almost a year. However, Israel says it is determined not to be seen as a safe haven for foreign criminals or illegal immigrants.

Recently, Israeli police have been cracking down on illegal immigrants, making sure people in the country have the right to be there. The special police unit that has been set up has wasted no time in rounding up thousands of illegal foreign workers and deporting them.

In the last few months, some 20,000 illegal aliens have been caught. Most of them are foreigners whose work permits have expired. Others entered the country on tourist visas and overstayed.

The sight of Israeli police patrolling pavements has become an all too familiar, but in the very heart of Tel-Aviv, practically under the nose of the police, one of the FBI’s most wanted men was living freely for almost a year.

Micky Louis Mayon was wanted for membership of the Ku Klux Klan, the burning of cars belonging to federal judges and several counts of violence.

According to intelligence reports, Mayon arrived in Israel last year. He kept moving around and changing identities to avoid being caught.

After Interpol got involved, he was tracked down to an Indian restaurant in Tel Aviv and eventually deported.

Tziki Sela of the immigration police says that it was possibly a fake passport that helped Mayon enter the country.

“Interpol got information from his Israeli girlfriend and friends who called the American Embassy,” he said. “Interpol contacted us to say he is in the Tel Aviv area. We built a special intelligence unit, and within seven hours we arrested him.”

It is not the first time criminals wanted by Interpol have been found hiding out in the Jewish state. Retired policemen Moshe Fridman says that Interpol have often asked for Israeli assistance.

“No one disappears in Israel without the police knowing about it,” he said. “I remember one case where we found the guy after two days, but we got the order to extradite him only after a few months. The country is so small that people cannot hide.”

Extradition Lawyer Eitan Maoz says that even if in the past Israel may have been considered a safe heaven for criminals, now it is no longer the case.

“During the nineties, Israel was well-known to be a safe haven, especially for Jewish people that could come and get Israeli citizenship through the Aliya process and stay here very calmly because Israel won’t be extraditing its own citizens,” he said. “After the nineties this law was amended, and so Israel is no longer a safe haven for criminals.”

The new police unit says in four years it will rid the country of as many as a quarter of a million illegal foreign workers, but many fear in doing so the police will cut corners to meet their quota.