Netanyahu asks if African 'infiltrators' can be forcibly removed from Israel

  • Netanyahu asks if African 'infiltrators' can be forcibly removed from Israel

Netanyahu asks if African 'infiltrators' can be forcibly removed from Israel

An African migrant gestures during a protest, held by women and children of the migrant community, against Israel's detention policy toward migrants in Tel Aviv, January 15, 2014.

Israel has not clearly said where the migrants will go, but tacitly recognises it is too unsafe to return the Sudanese and Eritreans home.

Israeli authorities have given the illegal migrants until the end of March to leave the country.

Holot, an open facility in Israel's desert south that can host 1,200 migrants who are allowed to leave to work during the day, is also set to be closed.

Those who leave by the end of March will be given $3,500, along with airfare and other incentives.

"Compared with the more than 2,000 infiltrators who entered Israel exactly a year ago and dispersed in various cities, only two crossed the border last month, and they were arrested", he said.

Numerous migrants say they came to Israel to seek asylum after fleeing persecution and conflict, but the authorities regard them as economic migrants.

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Netanyahu instructed the national security adviser, Meir Ben Shabbat, to look into forced expulsion as his cabinet met to approve a plan to offer 40,000 people the choice of being deported with a cash payment or being incarcerated indefinitely.

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The Israeli government says their return will be humane and "voluntary".

"We have expelled about 20,000 and now the mission is to get the rest out", Mr. Netanyahu said.

They will be offered a $3,500 financial stipend as well as an air ticket to "third countries", reportedly including Rwanda and Uganda, in case it is too risky to return to their home countries.

About 38,000 African migrants are still living illegally in Israel as of this year, immigration officials say.

"We have no partnership agreement with the government of Israel, ask them (Israel) to explain how they reached that decision", the minister said.

In his remarks, Netanyahu cited the large presence of African migrants in Tel Aviv's poorer neighborhoods, where he said "veteran residents" - a reference to Israelis - no longer feel safe. All eyewitness accounts tell us that those who are deported from Israel to Rwanda find themselves without status or rights and exposed to threats such as kidnapping, torture, and human trafficking. The government now considers most of the "infiltrators" to be economic migrants.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum.