By DPA – ISRAEL has begun deporting asylum seekers, most of them Eritreans who entered the country illegally, to third-party nations.
Seven Eritreans staying at an open facility in Israel‘s Negev desert received letters saying they had 30 days to leave for an unnamed country, said the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants in Israel on Thursday.
If they refused, they risked being sent to a closed detention centre.
The name of the third-party country was not given in the first notification to the migrants. Israeli media said the countries were Rwanda and Uganda.
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s right-wing Likud party, said that a deal had been reached with two “safe” third-party countries in Africa that are willing to absorb the migrants.
Those accepting to leave would receive a plane ticket, hotel fare and a cash grant, Erdan said in a statement.
“The move will encourage infiltrators to exit the state of Israel in a safe and dignified way,” he said.
Israel does not accept Eritrea‘s indefinite compulsory military service for all males as grounds to grant refugee status, fearing it would then have to recognize and provide for thousands of Eritreans. It also fears it would attract more asylum seekers.
Israel‘s supreme court last year nixed a clause in a new Israeli law that would have allowed the state to jail indefinitely under certain conditions migrants who refuse to leave.
“We see it as a slap in the face of the supreme court,” the Hotline‘s Anat Ovadia told dpa of the threat to jail migrants who refuse to accept Rwanda or Uganda as their destination.
Some 42,000 African migrants currently reside in Israel, many of them in south Tel Aviv. The vast majority are Eritreans, while some are Sudanese.