African migrants gesture behind a fence during a protest against Israel's detention policy towards them.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)
Interior Minister Arye Deri outlined a plan on Monday to offer migrants living in Israel a cash incentive to voluntarily leave.
Amnesty International Israel slammed any such proposal, saying the migrants are being forced out and would return to dangerous conditions. It also said that the government is ignoring the thousands of requests for asylum it has received from African migrants.
It is believed that upwards of 40,000 migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, are currently living in Israel.
According to Deri’s proposal, published on the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) website, any migrant in the country who agrees to be sent to their home country or to a third country by March 2018 will receive $3,500, plus funds for their flight and assistance in arranging travel documents. According to PIBA, the proposed grant for so-called “voluntary deportation” will be reduced after March.
Deri and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan released a joint statement on Sunday stating that they plan to present migrants “with two options only: Voluntary deportation or sitting in prison.” Rights groups point out that such a position makes the decision far from voluntary.
PIBA said that any applications for asylum will not be affected by accepting the cash offer, and will be transferred to the third country.
But Amnesty International Israel said on Monday that the government is lying and refusing to consider legitimate asylum applications at all.
“It is forbidden to deport them,” the NGO said in a statement. “Who will handle the open applications, Rwanda?” According to the NGO, some 7,000 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan have tried to file for asylum but were prevented from doing so.
“PIBA never intended to fulfill its role, and is knowingly misleading the legal system, the legislature and the asylum seekers themselves with false information,” said the NGO.
Chen Brill-Egri, who heads the campaign for refugees and asylum seekers for Amnesty International Israel, said that Israel “is crossing all possible red lines” with its “shameful” behavior toward the migrant population.
According to figures released by PIBA on Sunday, no “infiltrators” entered Israel in 2017. This is compared to 18 in 2016 and 220 in 2015, according to the government authority. It also said that 4,012 illegal residents voluntarily left the country in the past 12 months.
A special cabinet meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday to discuss Deri and Erdan’s plan. It is unclear if their decisions will end up before the Supreme Court, which has ruled previously that migrants and asylum seekers cannot be detained indefinitely.