African migrants at Lewinsky Park in Tel Aviv, January 9, 2014..
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
A total of 1,705 African migrants agreed to leave Israel voluntarily in February, Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar said Thursday.
The number is the largest single monthly total yet, coming after 765 who left in January, 325 in December and 63 in November.
Sa'ar credits the figures to the new anti-infiltration amendment, the opening of the Holot detention facility
for African migrants, greater of enforcement against Israelis hiring illegal migrants, the one-time grant that was increased from $1,500 to $3,500 and a general climate that he says is not rewarding for those migrating to Israel illegally.
He also took issue with the assumption many hold that the number is mainly made up of people who were detained in Holot and agreed to leave so as not to remain in prison. According to Sa'ar, of the 1,705, only 64, or 3.7% were in Holot or in Saharonim prison, the rest were living in Israeli cities.
The massive exodus from Israeli cities is further proof that these are migrant workers mainly who moved here for work. Once they began to understand that their chances of living and working long term in Israeli cities has declined, they prefer to leave voluntarily.
The migrants who are leaving have either decided to go back to their countries - in the case of Sudan and Eritrea return could mean facing persecution - or to third party countries like Uganda which have agreed to absorb them.