Israel tells African migrants to leave the country or face imprisonment


The Israeli government has issued a notice for thousands of African migrants to leave the country or face imprisonment.

The migrants will be given up to $3,500 (£2,600) for leaving. They will be given the option of going to their home country or to Uganda or Rwanda.

But if they don't leave, the Israeli authorities have threatened that from April they will start jailing them.

People from Eritrea and Sudan make up a significant number of migrants in Israel, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reports.

Most of them say they came to Israel to seek asylum after fleeing persecution and conflict, but the authorities regard them as economic migrants.

A spokesperson from the Population and Immigration Authority broke down the figures:

- There are currently in Israel 38,000 "infiltrators", the term Israel uses to describe people who entered it not through an official border crossing.

- In the Holot (an open detention facility) there are 970 "infiltrators"

- In the Saharonim (a closed detention facility) there are 450 "infiltrators".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that an unchecked influx of African migrants could threaten Israel's Jewish character.

The order exempts children, elderly people and victims of slavery and human trafficking. The Israeli government says the return is voluntary and will be humane.

But the UN refugee agency and other human rights groups say the controversial plan violates international and Israeli laws.

BBC

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