The Israeli government’s coalition cabinet has voted to approve a plan to pay African refugees $3,500 grants to encourage them to leave the country.
The plan was drawn up by the country’s new Interior Minister Silvan Shalom and supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu said the move was designed to “protect the Jewish and democratic character” of the Middle Eastern state.
“We are determined to remove the tens of thousands of infiltrators who are here, after we lowered to zero the number of work-seeking infiltrators who have entered Israel’s cities,” he said at the cabinet meeting, according to a government press release.
As a part of the £73 million package, a migrant detention centre will be developed in the Negev desert. Israel already pays $1,500 to migrants who agree to leave but the current proposal will raise the figure to $3,500.The police will also be provided extra funding in South Tel-Aviv where populations of African migrants live.
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A 2014 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that the repatriation is not as voluntary as it appears and amounts to force. Migrants who refuse to return will be subject to detention in the new facility.
“Destroying people's hope of finding protection by forcing them into a corner and then claiming they are voluntarily leaving Israel is transparently abusive,” said author of the report Gerry Simpson.
African refugees protesting against government's deportation policy. PHOTO: EPA
“Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel are left with the choice of living in fear of spending the rest of their days locked up in desert detention centres or of risking detention and abuse back home.”
The US government criticized Israel’s treatment of African asylum seekers in 2012 as they were denied refugee status and basic healthcare. The state department’s annual report also criticized provocative speech used by the Israeli government.
Israel has an appraised number of around 50,000-60,000 African migrants living within its borders; 0.6% of its 8 million population.
The article originally appeared on Independent
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