Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Israel tells African migrants to leave within 3 months

Israel tells African migrants to leave within 3 months

Of these people, 1,420 are being held in detention centers.

Israel may claim to be a welcoming place, but when it comes to African migrants, those claims couldn't be further from the truth.

"Beyond the end of March, those who leave voluntarily will receive a significantly smaller payment that will shrink even more with time, and enforcement measures will begin", the official said, referring to incarceration.

Although the government labels the vast majority of the 35,000 refugees as "infiltrators" because they illegally entered Israel via Sinai, Dror Sadot, spokeswoman for the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, said they are primarily legitimate asylum- seekers fleeing genocide. "They prefer now to stay in prison (in Israel) instead".

"We have no agreement with the Israeli government to send refugees from other countries that are in Israel to Uganda".

The prime minister also noted that a barrier along the border with Egypt, completed some five years ago, has stymied the stream of migrants illegally entering the country, which by then had reached more than 60,000.

Israeli immigration officers check the documents of an African migrant in south Tel Aviv
Israeli immigration officers check the documents of an African migrant in south Tel

There have been media reports about a deal either with Rwanda or Uganda.

Israel has had to face a running battle with rights groups over its treatment of migrants. All eyewitness accounts tell us that those who are deported from Israel to Rwanda find themselves exposed to threats such as kidnapping, torture and human trafficking.

In mid-December, the Knesset approved its latest bill on the issue after a High Court of Justice ruling that allowed for deportation to a third country if the migrants did not want to return to their country of origin, but only with their consent and only if the third country was safe.

"As party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Israel has legal obligations to protect refugees and other persons in need of worldwide protection", UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk said in November. The government now considers most of the "infiltrators" to be economic migrants. Israel has granted asylum to fewer than one percent of those who have applied and has a years-long backlog of applicants.

Israel's treatment of African refugees has come under attack from local human rights groups, who say a country founded by Jewish refugees persecuted during World War II should be more understanding of the asylum seekers' plight.

"Every country must guard its borders", said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of a special cabinet meeting to address the matter on Wednesday.

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