The Israeli Supreme Court ruled Monday that the country may deport African refugees to countries like Uganda and Rwanda.
Justices on the panel backed the policy known as “voluntary deportations,” in which asylum seekers from places like Eritrea and Sudan are sent back to other African nations, so long as Israel pays for the flight and gives them an extra $3,500, Haaretz reports.
However, if asylum seekers don’t agree to the deportations and also sign forms saying they agreed to voluntarily leave the country, they can be detained for up to two months. Still, the new limit of two months effectively ends Israel’s former policy of indefinite detention to convince refugees they should leave.
Human rights organizations complained that the voluntary deportations violated basic rights, but the court disagreed.
Following the ruling, Interior Minister Arye Dery issued a statement noting that it’s important to put the interests of Israeli citizens first before refugees.
“[T]he decision not to allow the state to deport infiltrators against their will is very problematic,” Dery said. “We have to care for the citizens of the state of Israel, the residents of south Tel Aviv, and other cities where residents’ lives are unlivable. I’m satisfied that the court’s ruling allows us to continue removing infiltrators to a third country.”
Israel authorities estimate that there are about 38,000 asylum seekers in the country. The rate of seekers entering the country has plummeted in the past few years. So far in 2017, authorities have only caught one person trying to head into Israel from Egypt.
The Interior Ministry also recently reported that the number of voluntary deportations has dropped off significantly, noting that the rate fell by 47 percent in 2015 as compared to 2014. Notably, 2015 was the same year the Population, Immigration and Border Authority started deporting Eritreans and Sudanese involuntarily.
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