The Israeli government has started sending deportation notices to thousands of African refugees, warning them that they face indefinite imprisonment if they fail to leave the country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Saturday the execution of a plan to deport nearly 40,000 African refugees who entered the country illegally. The first notices were distributed Sunday, informing migrants that they have two months to leave Israel or face jail time. The Israeli government will give those who opt to leave a $3,500, travel document assistance, and a plane ticket to an unnamed African country.
Critics of the new policy claim that migrants face persecution and even death abroad, however, proponents argue the refugees are a threat to the state.
Tens of thousands of African refugees — primarily from Sudan and Eritrea — have illegally entered Israel over the past decade. Before Israel erected a fence in 2013, thousands of migrants fled across the border with Egypt and settled in the Tel Aviv area.
Around 20,000 have already been deported, according to the government, but thousands remain. The Israeli government asserts that most of these illegal immigrants are “infiltrators” in search of better economic opportunities, not asylum seekers fleeing conflict and persecution as they claim.
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The Israeli government identifies African refugees in Israel as the cause of rising crime in Israeli cities. Israeli citizens have reported being harassed, robbed, raped, and attacked by refugees.
“We have expelled about 20,000 and now the mission is to get the rest out,” Netanyahu said recently. For the time being, deportation notices have only been sent to men without families.
The aggressive deportation program has triggered outrage and protests among refugees and Israeli citizens who believe that the plan taints the country’s image as a refuge for those who have been driven from their homes.
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