North Sudanese nationals have until October 15 to leave Israel or face deportation, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Wednesday.
Anyone remaining after the deadline will be jailed in the detention centers for African migrants in the South, he added.
Yishai said those who leave willingly will receive support from his ministry.
He also vowed to “use all of his power to obtain legal approval to jail and deport Eritrean infiltrators from Israel,” the minister’s office said on Wednesday.
Yishai said the move regarding the Sudanese “is another step in the progress from talk to action in terms of the infiltrators issues. Those who want to keep talking and find themselves in the future facing a commission of inquiry over the loss of Israel, can keep talking. Those who want to work to ensure a Jewish and Zionist state for our children should act. I chose to act.”
Also on Wednesday, Yishai told Channel 2 that “we will make the lives of infiltrators bitter until they leave.”
The Foreign Ministry said the state’s policy that forbids deporting migrants to Sudan had not changed, nor had the ban on deporting people to Eritrea. The Foreign Ministry said that since Israel had no ties with Sudan, an enemy state, Israel could not send migrants there without a third country coordinating the return. They added that the policy against deporting Eritreans, who make up the majority of Israel’s approximately 60,000 African migrants, had not changed because they would likely face persecution at the hands of the ruling dictatorship. Darfurians still enjoy group protection status in Israel and cannot be deported.
Amnesty International issued a sharp condemnation of Yishai's declaration, saying that the "cruel" plan would violate Israel's international obligations.
It is unfortunate to see Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the interior minister continue with their plan "to act cruelly toward asylum seekers in Israel and to violate [Israel's] international obligations that it took upon itself in the Refugee Convention and other treaties," Amnesty's refugee rights campaign coordinator Sarah Robinson said. Among its obligations, she noted, is the prohibition of criminalizing or imprisoning asylum seekers.
Saying that Israeli authorities know they cannot return Eritreans and Sudanese nationals to their home countries, Robinson continued, "Yishai and Netanyahu want to imprison asylum seekers who fled the terror of the Sudanese regime." The Israeli government's conduct, she added, is sewing the seeds of xenophobia.
Yishai has repeatedly made controversial statements about Israel’s African migrant population, which numbers around 60,000. He has made the issue a pet cause of the Interior Ministry, while tat the same time, has often found himself at loggerheads with the Foreign Ministry over the issue.
A source at the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday night that Israel had made efforts to negotiate for a return of north Sudanese migrants and had spoken to Eritrean authorities about a return, but so far to no avail.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.