The Israeli government has notified African migrants who are illegally living in the country to return to their countries of origin or face imprisonment. In a notice to the migrants, the Israeli government has offered to pay $3,500 to those that ‘voluntarily’ leave Israel in the next 90 days, with the option to be deported back to their country of origin or a third country.
According to BBC, the Israeli authorities also said they would start jailing all immigrants who failed to comply with the voluntary deportation starting from April 1 this year.
The international community has bemoaned Israel’s deportation plan saying it is illegal under both Israeli and international law. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has criticized the decision, saying the illegal immigrants did not “flee their countries out of choice”.
“New generations must not forget that refugees do not flee out of choice but because they don’t have any other choice,” he was quoted by British media outlet The Guardian.
Human rights groups Centre for Refugees and Migrants, and Amnesty International have signed a letter demanding the expulsions be stopped, arguing that the people are likely to assume an illegal status and live “without rights” in the countries they will be deported to.
Most African migrants go through Egypt and enter Israel mainly via the fenced border shared between the two countries. Many of the migrants seek an asylum status under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. However, many of them, mostly citizens of Eritrea and Sudan, cannot be forcibly deported from Israel.
According to a Human Rights Watch report dating back to 2008, both Egypt and Israel have responded to this cross-border flow with policies that violate fundamental rights.