Israel has issued an ultimatum to thousands of Africans who illegally entered the country – get out in the next three months or go to prison.
The Population and Immigration Authority demanded this week that migrants from Sudan and Eritrea leave “to their country or to a third country,” meaning Rwanda or Uganda.
Those who cooperate and leave by the end of March will receive $3,500, along with airfare and other incentives, as reported by multiple outlets.
This is all part of an Israeli campaign to expel roughly 42,000 illegal African migrants from the country. These migrants entered Israel before it built a fence along its border with Egypt. Many of them seek refugee status, claiming they fled conflict and persecution in their home countries.
However, the Israeli government has termed them “infiltrators” and says they are mainly economic migrants whose presence in large numbers threatens Israel’s Jewish character.
The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group, blasted Israel’s move Tuesday, saying the expulsions “put the refugees’ lives in danger.”
But the Israeli government claims their return will be humane and voluntary, and the order exempts children, the elderly, and victims of slavery and human trafficking, according to the BBC.
During an August visit to south Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told residents, “We will return south Tel Aviv to the citizens of Israel; they are not refugees, but infiltrators looking for work.”
This came three days after Israel’s highest court ruled African asylum seekers could be deported to Rwanda or Uganda, but could only be held in detention for 60 days if they refused to leave voluntarily for a third country.
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