African asylum seekers told to leave Israel within 60 days

Anti-deportation activits warn that should the asylum-seekers be sent away this would be a 'stain to our DNA as Jewish people'.

African refugees hold up placades during a demonstatration on the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel (photo credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP)
African refugees hold up placades during a demonstatration on the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel
(photo credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP)
The Interior Ministry issued thousands of deportation notices on Sunday to single Eritrean and Sudanese men of working age who entered Israel illegally, demanding that they leave the country within 60 days for an unspecified third country or be forcefully removed, or imprisoned.
However, noting already overcrowded prison conditions, an unidentified senior Israel Prison Service official told the National Security Council that the nation will not be able to house more than 1,000 additional inmates due to a lack of space and funding.
The ministry recently announced that married men, women and children will not be subjected to forced deportation or imprisonment for the time being.
Last month, Rwanda Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe issued a strongly-worded denial on Twitter about ongoing reports that his government had made a secret deal with Israel to accept forcefully deported migrants at $5,000 per person.
There are approximately 38,000 African migrants in Israel, 20,000 of whom reportedly will be mailed Sunday’s ultimatum.
According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, since 2013, the ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority has only reviewed 6,500 of the 15,000 asylum applications submitted, and approved 11.
Sunday’s notice subject line, sent from the authority, reads: “Notice on the arrangement of your departure from Israel to a safe third country,” although nowhere in the letter is that country identified.
Instead, the notice describes a country “that in the past decade has developed tremendously and that receives thousands of returning residents and immigrants from various African countries.”
“In recent years,” the notice continues, “it has been showing some of the highest economic growth figures in Africa, thanks to exports to Europe and the United States, as well as to the flourishing tourism industry.
“This country enjoys stability in its regime, which has contributed to developments in many fields, including education, medicine and infrastructure.”
The notice goes on to state that those who self-deport will receive a grant of $3,500 at the airport prior to boarding the flight, as well as an entry visa for the unidentified third country.
Upon arriving in the unknown country, the notice states that individuals will be greeted by a “local team” that will transfer them to a hotel arranged in advance, where they will be given an orientation with local representatives.
Those who refuse to leave Israel will be granted a hearing within seven days of receiving the notice at an undisclosed facility, during which time they may present their case.
“Before making a final decision in your case, you are invited to attend a hearing that will take place at the enforcement facility where your permit is extended,” it states. “You must arrive at the facility with all the documents relevant to your case. You have the right to be represented. Should you fail to report, enforcement and relocation proceedings will be initiated against you.”
If those subject to deportation do not leave the country within 60 days, the notice states that their visas will be canceled and they will “be subject to enforcement and relocation proceedings for the third country.”
THE MINISTRY SAID it intends to deport a minimum of 300 African migrants a month over the next three years, and announced that it will pay 100 civilian-volunteer “inspectors” a salary, plus a NIS 30,000 bonus during that period for meeting the quota.
Noting domestic and international outrage over the measure, Ori Lahat, the African Refugee Development Center CEO, implored the Interior Ministry on Sunday to reevaluate its policy before moving forward with forced deportations or imprisonment.
“One thing that we noticed is that the Israeli government is moving ahead with its plan, while you can see we are getting people from all sectors – including Diaspora Jews – condemning this procedure, and I think at a minimum the government should reexamine this,” said Lahat. “I think this shows a deliberate intent of the government to not afford due process for asylum seekers, which is the key to this story.”
Lahat cautioned that if the measure goes through, it will tarnish Israel’s reputation for generations to come.
“From our point of view, if we allow this procedure to go through, in the end, it will be a stain on the history of Israelis and the Jewish people, and I think we need to do whatever we can to not let it happen,” he continued.
“If Israel decides to deport people to a third country, at a minimum it must check as many times as necessary that the person they are sending is not really an asylum seeker, and that is not the current situation.”
Lahat added: “It seems that the Israeli government doesn’t care who is who, and this is a stain on our DNA as Jewish people and a country, and is something that we as Jews and Israelis cannot sit aside and let happen. We need to come together to stop it. If not, in the years ahead, people will ask us why we let it happen, because we are losing our moral high ground as Jewish people by letting it happen.”