African migrants take part in a protest against Israel's detention policy toward them.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
In a move that will inflame already heated tensions, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority announced on Sunday that it will pay 100 volunteer civilian “inspectors” NIS 30,000 bonuses each to deport African refugees to an unspecified third country.
According to the Authority, beginning in March – one month before a mass expulsion is planned – the inspectors will exclusively work for two years to identify and expel the approximately 38,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers.
While details of the initiative remain unclear, the Authority said the inspectors would receive an unspecified salary plus a NIS 20,000 bonus after one year and NIS 30,000 after two years.
The job requires a high school education and preferably combat or security experience, the Authority said.
Most of the volunteers would focus their work in south Tel Aviv, where the vast majority of African refugees live in impoverished ghettos.
Among the 100 inspectors, over two dozen will focus their activities on a so-called Voluntary Repatriation Program, where refugees would accept $3,500 to voluntarily exit the country.
The majority will work as a part of the Interior Ministry’s Refugee Status Determination Unit, where they will review asylum applications to determine if the degree of risk each applicant faces from their native country qualifies them for asylum.
Others will be paid to locate and fine area businesses that unlawfully employ African migrants, and coordinate travel plans for those expelled.
The reported forced April deportations or indefinite imprisonment of the nation’s Sudanese and Eritrean refugees has resulted in numerous campaigns by human rights organizations to thwart the operation.
While the prime minister, Interior Minister Arye Deri and Culture Minister Miri Regev have castigated the refugees as “infiltrators” and “criminals,” a growing movement opposing the deportations as inhumane and antithetical to Jewish values has emerged.
Last week, several El Al pilots
said they refused to fly the asylum seekers to any third country against their will, and dozens of Holocaust survivors protesting the measure said they would protect them
in their homes if necessary.
Additionally, prominent leaders of the North American Jewish community sent an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to allow Diaspora Jews to resolve the controversial issue in a humane manner.
On Sunday, the Authority’s director- general Shlomo Mor-Yosef said that only single Sudanese and Eritrean men considered “economic migrants” will be deported, while women and children will be allowed to remain in the country, Haaretz reported.
Moreover, Mor-Yosef claimed that comparisons between the African refugees and Jews seeking asylum during the Holocaust are “foolish and manipulative,” while insisting that those to be deported are not refugees, and will not be sent to their deaths.
Despite stating that no action will be taken against refugees until their asylum applications are reviewed, the Authority has yet to review over 13,000 applications and has only granted asylum to 11 Eritreans and Sudanese since 2013.
Last week, Rwanda’s Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe issued a strongly- worded denial on Twitter about reports that his government has made a secret deal with Israel to accept forcefully deported refugees at $5,000 per person.
“Let me be clear: Rwanda will NEVER receive any African migrant who is deported against his/her will,” he wrote. “Our open-door policy only applies to those who come to Rwanda voluntary, without any form of constraint. Any manipulation of women, men & children in distress is appalling.”