Israel is offering illegal immigrants $3,500 and a one-way ticket home as it begins to crack down on refugees, who face prison if they don’t take up the deal. Rights groups are appalled at the move, saying Israel should be doing more to protect them.
Israel says the tough move is necessary to send a message to migrants that making the journey is not worthwhile in the first place. As deterrents it has built a steel fence along the border with Egypt, houses migrants in a detention camp in the middle of a desert, and has stopped issuing work permits to deter would-be migrants
Jews from Ethiopia have also looked to settle in Israel, however, they have not had an easy time of things in trying to start a new life.
Approximately 135,500 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, and more than a third of them – over 50,000 – were born there.
However, it would seem they are fortunate in comparison to their African neighbors who are not of the Jewish faith. Over the last six years, Israel has a dismal rate of accepting refugees from Eritrea. Despite the fact 300,000 asylum seekers from the country in the horn of Africa have been offered refugee status around the world, Israel has accepted only four people.
A government program has offered those without legal papers the chance to return home with $3,500 in cash, the option of going to a third country, or spend an indefinite time in an Israeli prison.
Over the past two years, over 9,000 Africans have taken up Israel’s offer and left. Before the crackdown began African workers could regularly be found around Tel Aviv doing menial jobs, such as washing dishes and cleaning hotel rooms which Israeli’s would not touch.
“It is a form of coercion, but it is not forced deportation,” said Sigal Rozen, who works as the public policy director for an Israeli human rights group called Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. However, Rozen was adamant, “Israel should do more,” the Washington Post reported.