Israel to expel African immigrants to a “third country”.
Israel has announced an agreement with two African countries to take in illegal African migrants who would “voluntarily return,” local media has reported.
The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz reported on Thursday that Israel’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, PIBA, had released a statement two days earlier saying African migrants in Israel could “voluntarily return” to Rwanda or Uganda, which had also agreed not to deport the migrants to their home countries.
PIBA’s statement said the process prepared by Interior Minister Gilad Erdan was “to expand the voluntary return of infiltrators to a third country”.
Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved the deportation of African migrants, mainly Eritrean and Sudanese, despite the protest of some human rights groups.
– Risk of imprisonment
His decision was based on a report prepared by the Israeli Foreign Ministry which said the migrants’ lives would not be in danger in Uganda or Rwanda, according to Haaretz.
Representatives from the PIBA are to go to the Holot detention centre in the country’s south and determine which migrants should be sent first.
The Israeli state said it would fund airfare and hotel accommodation and provide a specific amount of money to migrants who “voluntarily return”, and they would be informed of which country they would be going to after the representatives’ decision.
Migrants selected for “voluntary deportation” are to have 30 days to prepare to leave, while those who refuse may face imprisonment, according to the statement.
– ‘Transparently abusive’
Human Rights Watch released a report in September 2014 saying that Israel had forced at least 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals to return to their countries where they could face danger.
The report said that, among measures taken by Israel over the past eight years to force the migrants to leave were “indefinite detention, obstacles to accessing Israel’s asylum system, the rejection of 99.9% of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum claims, ambiguous policies on being allowed to work, and severely restricted access to healthcare”.
The author of the report, Gerry Simpson, said: “Destroying people’s hope of finding protection by forcing them into a corner and then claiming they are voluntarily leaving Israel is transparently abusive.”
Eritreans and Sudanese migrants began entering Israel in 2006 through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and by November 2012 there were at least 37,000 Eritreans and 14,000 Sudanese, who sought shelter in Israel’s poorest neighborhoods.
Israel’s Interior Ministry has claimed that the migrants were treated in accordance to international law and that they were not asylum seekers, as they had arrived to the closest developed country due to attractive economic conditions and possible employment.