TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel has started handing out notices to 20,000 male African migrants giving them two months to leave the country or risk being thrown in jail.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is offering the migrants, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea, $3,500 and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination in another country in sub-Saharan Africa.
The right-wing government is under pressure from its nationalist voter base to expel the migrants
The government says the migrants are “infiltrators” looking for work rather than asylum
The first eviction notices were handed out on Sunday and job advertisements for immigration inspectors to implement the deportation plan have been posted on government websites.
The deportation notices do not name the country migrants will be flown to but Netanyahu has said it will be a safe destination. Rights groups have named Uganda and Rwanda as possible host countries.
In a poor neighbourhood in the south of Tel Aviv that has attracted thousands of African migrants, shops are dotted with signs in Tigrinya and other African languages while abandoned warehouses have been converted into churches.
“I came to Israel to save my life,” said Eritrean Afoworki Kidane, sitting on a street bench.
He said he would rather go to jail than take the cash and plane ticket on offer to leave the country that has been his home for nine years.
That is the one weakness in the plan; jail in a First World country is superior to freedom in a shithole…
Still, a good start…
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Israel’s first obligation was to its own citizens, rather than the migrants.
“They are not numbers, they are people, they are human and I am full of compassion and mercy,” Deri told Army Radio. “But the small state of Israel cannot contain such a vast number of illegal infiltrators.”