Interior Ministry announces new initiative to get African migrants to agree to deportation

By Ben Hartman, JPOST

In the coming days Israel will begin a process to get African migrants to leave Israel for two unnamed third-party countries, the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority said Tuesday.

In a statement on Tuesday, PIBA said that Interior Minister Gilad Erdan “has formulated a process that will begin in the coming days to expand the voluntary return of infiltrators to a third country”.

There are currently around 2,000 migrants being held at the Holot detention facility in the Negev, out of a population of around 42,000 Eritrean and Sudanese citizens in Israel. According to PIBA, migrants who are selected for “voluntary deportation” will be given 30 days to get ready to leave Israel, and those who refuse will face a hearing on whether to imprison them.

The issue of “voluntary deportation” is a controversial one in that those who don’t agree to voluntarily leave face continued detention in Israel. For the past few years Israel has maintained a policy of encouraging deportation, through the threat of detention but also “positive incentives” like a one-time stipend. According to PIBA figures, since the beginning of 2014 around 1,500 migrants have agreed to be deported to a third-party country in Africa and around 7,000 who agreed to be returned to their home country.

PIBA said Tuesday that Israel has reached agreements with two African countries willing to absorb the migrants which have also agreed not to deport them to their home countries.

The statement said that in the first stage of the plan, representatives from PIBA will go to Holot and determine which group of detainees will be the first to leave Israel, and determine which still have asylum requests pending. Those who don’t have pending requests will be informed of all of the aspects of their return and given information about the country they will be moving to. They will also be provided with airfare, a hotel, and an unspecified stipend from the state.

Interior Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said in a statement released on Tuesday that “this process will encourage infiltrators to leave the territory of Israel in a safe and respectful way, and will be an effective tool to carry out our obligations to help residents of Israel and south Tel Aviv restore the way of life they were used to.”

The statement added that Erdan is working so that “the base principles of the new government will include the completion of the extraction of infiltrators from Israel and their return to their countries or other countries, with the goal of getting life in south Tel Aviv back on course.”

March 31, 2015 | Comments »

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