Israel gives African migrants 3 months to leave or face jail
12 January, 2018, 18:44 | Author: Wade Massey
The plan will see the 38,000 African migrants, mainly Eritrean and Sudanese, who have entered the country illegally, leave by the end of March.
The plan comes on the back of a November deal with Rwanda in which Israel agreed to pay $5,000 for every African migrant it accepts.
The Population and Immigration Authority called this week on migrants from Sudan and Eritrea to leave "to their country or to a third country", meaning Rwanda or Uganda.
Israel stated that migrants who leave before the end of March will be given $3,500 and airfare.
Before the construction of the fence along the border with Egypt was completed in 2012, approximately 65,000 people - the vast majority male Africans - crossed illegally into Israel. Many of them seek refugee status, claiming they fled conflict and persecution in their home countries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has characterized the resettlement of African migrants in Israel as harmful to the country's Jewish character and social cohesion.
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"This plan will get under way today", Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting.
"Two options only: voluntary deportation or sitting in prison", Israel's interior minister, Arye Deri, and the public security minister, Gilad Erdan said.
The arrival of the immigrants and Israel's subsequent attempts to remove them has prompted protests by those who do not want to go home.
In August, the High Court of Justice ruled the policy was legal, but also said that Israeli authorities had to first ensure that the countries to which migrants were being deported were safe. "We don't know what is waiting for us (in Rwanda and Uganda)", he told Reuters by telephone.
Israel tacitly recognizes that Sudanese and Eritreans can not be returned to their unsafe homelands, so it has signed deals with third countries, which agree to accept departing migrants on condition they consent to the arrangement, according to activists. The government now considers most of the "infiltrators" to be economic migrants.
A sharp shift to the right in Israeli politics has given rise to an increasingly vocal push to isolate African asylum seekers and ultimately return them to their homelands.
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