Israel fulfilled its promise of arresting and expelling African migrants last week, after it detained seven Eritreans who refused to be deported to Rwanda.
The government of Israel had proposed giving each migrant $3,500 to leave, with the option of going home or to a third country. If they don’t leave by end of March, migrants face indefinite incarceration. Immigration officials are also hiring civilian inspectors to help investigate and arrest the migrants.
However Israel’s plan which got worldwide criticism from human rights advocates both in and outside the country, calling on prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to deport the asylum seekers, saying the nation has “no refugee problem”, didn’t make the Jewish nation renege on the plan.
Reporting the incident, two refugee rights groups, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylums seekers in Israel (ASSAF), disclosed that the authorities handed the asylum seekers “deportation notices”, and imprisoned them at the Saharonim prison in the south of Israel.
To protest the deportation, inmates at the Holot prison in the Negev desert first embarked on a hunger strike. African migrants also went out into the streets, protesting in front of embassies like that of Rwanda, and hoping to pressure officials to end their expulsion. Some of those demonstrating also painted their faces white, suggesting they were being sent into danger because Israel didn’t believe their black lives mattered.
In recent months, Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu has spoken about how Israel is struggling to cope with what he calls a migrant crisis.
Presently, the United Nations estimates that there are nearly 40,000 African migrants in Israel, the bulk of them being Eritreans and Sudanese.
Most of the refugees have fled adverse conditions in their home countries which, like Sudan, have been ravaged by war, economic hardship and in the Eritrean case, corruption.
Rwanda, where many of the migrants are being reportedly sent, recently said that it was “wrong and offensive” that asylum seekers were being given the option of going to Rwanda or to jail. Research has shown that those previously deported to Rwanda and Uganda continue to face danger and death, even risking their lives by taking perilous onward journeys to Europe.