By Keren Setton JERUSALEM (Xinhua) --
Israel’s controversial migrant policy that tells African
migrants to leave or face imprisonment has triggered heated
government is giving African migrants three months to leave the
country or face jail time if they do not.
The migrants slated
for deportation are those without families that have not
submitted a request for refugee status as of Jan. 1, 2018.
In the past years,
Israel has been implementing a plan intended to wipe out the
migrant population in the country. According to the Population
and Immigration Authority, there are almost 40,000 migrants in
Israel, or what it calls “infiltrators” who entered the country
In 2017, over 3,000
migrants left the country as part of the plan.
population is approximately 8.5 million.
The majority of the
migrants, over 70 percent, come from Eritrea, with 20 percent
coming from Sudan, both countries with a questionable track
record in upholding human rights.
government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has led a
policy in which those leaving the Jewish state by the end of
March this year will be paid 3,500 U.S. dollars. Their plane
tickets will be funded by the Israeli government. They can
either return to their homelands or choose a third host country,
Rwanda or Uganda, with which Israel has agreements with on the
The Israeli Supreme
Court, which has been deeply involved in the sticky issue, ruled
both Rwanda and Uganda safe destinations, as opposed to the
claim of various humanitarian organizations in the country.
Israel does not have
diplomatic relations with Sudan and can therefore not deport the
migrants back there.
But even though the
controversial policy is making headlines now, Israel has never
been very welcoming to non-Jewish migration.
“This is a long term
policy by which it is believed that Israel is a Jewish state,
not an immigration state. The idea of the refugee convention is
a very difficult one for Israel to digest and therefore the goal
is to narrow down the possibility of giving refugee status as
much as possible, especially when that status gives rights and
leads to establishing permanent residency,” said Attorney Anat
Ben Dor of the Refugee Rights Clinic at the Tel Aviv University.
Only in 2013 did the
country regulate the request process for refugees, making it
more transparent. Until then, the process was virtually
non-existent and migrants were not expelled but not recognized
official statistics, the height of the influx of migrants was
between the years 2010-2012, during which thousands of African
migrants entered the country illegally. After that, Israel began
accelerating the erection of a wall along its southern border
where the overwhelming majority of immigrants entered from.
The 2017 statistics
which showed no migrants entering the country last year were a
source of pride for the Netanyahu government.
“Israel does not
want to become a destination for mass migration,” said Yonatan
Jakubowicz, founding director of the Israeli Immigration Policy
Center and a leading advocate for the so-called “Infiltrators
law.” “Israel sees what’s going on in Europe where that policy
has failed,” he added.
government has maintained that the majority of migrants are
economic ones and not asylum seekers as some advocacy groups in
the country claim.
Jakubowicz said only
a small fraction of migrants have applied for refugee
status—proving the government’s claim. Statistics on the matter
vary, ranging from 50 percent to 80 percent of migrants seeking
According to the Aid
Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel (ASSAF),
Israel has the lowest refugee recognition rate in the Western
world—less than one percent.
“The asylum system
in Israel is not an honest system that really seeks to give
refugee status. It is really a system that is intended to deny
the applications,” Ben Dor told Xinhua.
in the aftermath of the Holocaust, and itself host to a large
population of Jewish refugees from around the world, finds
itself in a moral dilemma.
Opposition to the
migrants in the country is not small and many fear that the
existence of a growing non-Jewish population will threaten the
country’s Jewish character.
“In twenty or more
years, this can cause a problematic change in the population’s
diversity here,” said Israeli parliament member Miki Zohar, a
member of Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Jewish residents of
south Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital, have been
complaining for years of violence in the area which is the home
to many of the migrants.
But in recent weeks,
there are different voices against the expulsion policy.
former diplomats, doctors and pilots who refuse to fly the
migrants back to Africa—have all raised their voices against the
In an open letter to
the Israeli leader, 800 Jewish clergymen from the United States
urged reconsideration of the policy.
“Our own experience
of slavery and liberation, and our own experience as refugees,
compels us to act with mercy and justice toward those seeking
refuge among us,” the letter read.
A left wing
parliament member was removed from a Knesset meeting on the
matter after calling a Likud member a “friend of the Nazis” for
supporting the policy.
“One would hope that
a country with such a historical memory would act differently,”
Anat Ben Dor told Xinhua.
Netanyahu has so far
Speaking at a
cabinet meeting earlier this week, he was steadfast in his
position, calling the campaign against the policy “baseless and
At the Knesset,
Israel’s parliament, there was a heated debate about the issue,
as Jakubowicz sees Israel’s policy as a success.
“Israel has taken a
very balanced position here ... (it) is not willing to absorb a
mass influx of migrants and is looking for that middle ground
... other countries can learn from Israel even though it is
taking a lot of heat,” he said.
Israeli media has
reported that the police is preparing for violent
Polls published in
the media show support for the government policy despite the
It seems there are
no more hurdles and at the end of March there will be a forceful
deportation of migrants from Israel back to African countries.
Rwanda to introduce machine
readable travel document for refugees: official
KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) --
Rwanda will soon introduce a new machine readable
travel document for refugees, an official in the ministry of
disaster management and refugees affairs said Tuesday.
The government of
Rwanda, in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will soon issue the
Machine Readable Refugee Convention Travel Documents (MRCTD) to
facilitate refugees in the country to travel outside Rwanda for
business, education and other opportunities, said Jean-Claude
Rwahama, director of refugee affairs unit, in a phone interview,
the right to free movement of refugees. We have decided to come
up with a travel document that meets UNHCR and International
Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) standards,” he said.
were using a travel document to travel but was not
electronically improved, Rwahama said.
According to Rwahama,
the document with enhanced security features will be produced by
the Rwanda directorate general of immigration and emigration.
Rwanda hosts more
than 173,300 refugees, mostly from the Democratic Republic of
the Congo and Burundi, in six camps (Kigeme, Gihembe, Kiziba,
Nyabiheke, Mugombwa and Mahama) across the country, according to
In November 2017,
Rwanda announced that it was ready to host up to 30,000 African
immigrants who were exposed to all forms of abuse.