Israel’s interior ministry said on Friday that African migrants who entered the country illegal will be given cash incentives if they choose to leave on their own, or face expulsion, the AP reported.
According to the report, there are about 60,000 Africans, from Egypt and other predominantly Muslim countries, who have come to Israel for work or political asylum.
Israel is not willing to keep them. A Jerusalem court ruled recently that some 4.500 migrants, mostly from South Sudan, Ivory Coast and Mali are to be deported back to their countries.
Interior ministry spokesperson Sabine Hadad said on Friday that those who leave on their own, within the next two weeks, will be given $1,200, while others will be removed.
The expulsion could take months, Interior Minister Eli Yishai had said earlier, telling Israel Radio that asylum seekers from Sudan, an enemy of Israel, and Eritrea will remain in tent cities and holding facilities where they will have good living conditions.
Israel will, however, not process their asylum applications, Yishai says, wary that some refugees could become economic migrants.
The economy isn’t the sole concern here, as Yishai warns that an influx of migrants could prove harmful to the Israel’s Jewish character.
Many Israelis, especially in Tel Aviv where there is an increased migrant population, blame violent crimes committed in those neighborhoods on the African migrants, sparking protests.
African migrants are often the object of hate crimes as well. A recent Jerusalem “arson attack” was said to have injured mainly African migrants.
Israel is erecting a barrier along the roughly 200km porous border it shares with Egypt. However, the AP reports that the migrants continue to arrive at a rate of about 1,000 a month.
Many of them arrive Israel with tales of robbery, rape and abuses suffered at the hands of the Arab Bedouin who smuggle them into the country.