African migrant woman.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Israel has finalized an agreement with a third country to accept deported
Eritrean and Sudanese migrants.
The process of sending thousands to the
still-unnamed country will begin after the High Holy Days, Interior Minister
Gideon Sa’ar said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset
Interior and Environment Committee, Sa’ar said Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein
had given his go-ahead.
After the holidays, the government will call on
Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel illegally, to return voluntarily to their
native countries, Sa’ar said, adding that those who wait until after the end of
an unspecified grace period could face punitive measures.
cancellation of the renewable residency permits that allow them to escape
incarceration, and penalties against them and their employers.
committee approved “procedures for preventing infiltration,” including a number
of “negative economic incentives” meant to encourage migrants to
These steps include limiting their ability to send funds home from
Israel, although they can take money with them if they leave
These funds would be limited to the monthly minimum wage
(NIS 4,300) multiplied by the number of months they lived in
Anything beyond this would require special approval from Israeli
authorities, who would otherwise be permitted to seize surplus funds or
Sa’ar explained that the regulations are an additional step
meant to deal with the African migrant issue. The high level of migration had
been curbed by the combination of the new Egypt border fence and legislation,
such as the amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, which allows Israel
to jail indefinitely people caught entering the country illegally, he
Sa’ar said government policies have resulted in about 2,000 to
3,000 migrants returning to their countries of origin or to other countries each
In June, former Mossad official Hagai Hadas, whom Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu appointed in December to spearhead the state’s effort to send
African migrants back home or to countries willing to accept them, said they
would return by way of commercial flights, and the process could take a few
Hadas said at the time that an unnamed country had agreed both to
accept African migrants from Israel and to allow them to return to their home
countries by way of its territory.
Eritreans, who make up the majority of
the more than 55,000 African migrants in Israel, get group protection here out
of fear that they could face persecution upon return to their country. The same
goes for Sudanese, who – because their country has no relations with Israel and
Sudanese citizens are banned from visiting here – could face incarceration or
other forms of punishment upon arriving home.