Israel announced on Wednesday the launch of a program aimed at making some 40,000 illegal African immigrants choose between leaving the Jewish state voluntarily or imprisoning them for an indefinite period of time. This was reported by AFP news agency.
At the start of his cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the start of the plan, which aims to “bring out immigrants who have entered Israel illegally”.
African migrants have been given a deadline until the end of March to decide either to leave Israel voluntarily or to go to jail.
According to figures from the Israeli Interior Ministry, the plan includes 38,000 people, mostly Eritreans and Sudanese. Each immigrant who agrees to leave will receive a flight ticket and about 3,000 euros.
Under the program, the Israeli government implicitly recognizes the inability of Sudanese and Eritrean migrants to return home.
The Eritrean regime is one of the most repressive regimes in the world. In June 2016, a UN commission of inquiry accused him of crimes against humanity on a large scale.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is being prosecuted for crimes of genocide in Darfur at the International Criminal Court.
Israeli non-governmental organizations supporting the immigrants say the Jewish state has signed agreements with other countries to receive migrants who leave voluntarily, and between them Rwanda and Uganda.
Most of the migrants arrived in Israel after illegally infiltrating through Egypt’s Sinai desert since 2007. The flow stopped after the Jewish state built an electronic fence along the border with Egypt.
Israel has opened detention centers for African migrants in the south.
By March 1, it will be possible for migrants to leave Israel voluntarily, but the money they receive will be reduced. All those who refuse will be imprisoned, according to the Interior Ministry.
In a separate statement, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is in charge of implementing the program, said Israel was “determined to expel tens of thousands of illegal immigrants.”
According to official Israeli figures, some 4,000 illegal immigrants left Israel in 2017.
In late August, Netanyahu visited southern Tel Aviv, home to thousands of African immigrants, and pledged to “return” the area to “Israeli citizens.”