By Ayo Kehinde
Thousands of African migrants living in Israel face imminent imprisonment if they do not leave that Jewish country within the next 90 days. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu has handed down the notice with an enticing transport fare of $3,500 each.
If they do not leave for their home country of any third world country, says the government, the Israeli authorities will start jailing them from April. The order however exempts children, elderly people, and victims of slavery and human trafficking.
A spokesperson for Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority reportedly said there were currently 38,000 “infiltrators” in Israel, of whom just 1,420 were being held in detention facilities.
Israel uses the term “infiltrators” to describe people who did not enter the country through an official border crossing.
Many of the migrants – who are mostly from Eritrea and Sudan – say they came to Israel to seek asylum after fleeing persecution and conflict, but the authorities regard them as economic migrants.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission, UNHCRR has faulted the move, stating that Israel has the obligation to cater to them according to the Refugee Convention, which it is a signatory“As party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Israel has legal obligations to protect refugees and other persons in need of international protection,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk. “UNHCR and the international community have been assisting Israel to meet its international obligations, including by resettling or finding other durable solutions for 2,400 refugees who have departed from Israel in the last couple of years.”
There are some 27,500 Eritreans and 7,800 Sudanese in Israel. Since Israel took over refugee status determination from UNHCR in 2009, only eight Eritreans and two Sudanese have been recognised as refugees by the authorities. Another 200 Sudanese, all from Darfur, were recently granted humanitarian status in Israel.