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Israeli gov't speeds up deportation of African migrants

Eritrean migrants wear chains to mimic slaves at a demonstration against the Israeli government's policy to forcibly deport African asylum seekers from Israel, outside the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, 2018
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Israeli government hopes to deport at least 600 Eritreans and Sudanese individuals each month

The Israeli government is speeding up the pace for deporting African asylum seekers, Haaretz reported on Monday.

According to the report, the Israeli government hopes to deport at least 600 Eritreans and Sudanese individuals each month, bringing the total up to 7,200 per year.

That would be a substantial increase as some 3,300 migrants have left in each of the last three years.

The plan has sent shockwaves through Israel, sparking protests and outrage.

Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers protests picked up momentum on Monday as two separate demonstrations took place - at the Rwandan Embassy and the President’s Residence as the forcible deportation plan to third-party African countries looms.

Thousands gathered outside the Israel’s Rwandan Embassy in Herzliya chanting “we are human beings!” and ‘Remember your history!”, holding signs of Eritrean refugees who were previously deported from Israel to Rwanda and died whilst seeking safety, the Times of Israel reported.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month, following the closure of the Holot detention center, that the 38,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers had a choice: either to receive a one-time payment of $3500 and leave Israel “voluntarily” to an African country, or stay in Israel and face indefinite incarceration in a more permanent detention center. The deadline given is the end of March 2018.

It is illegal to 'refoul' asylum-seekers to their countries of origin, so it instead Israel claims it struck deals to deport them to Rwanda and Uganda, although none of the countries involved have confirmed the arrangement. Rwanda's deputy foreign minister Oliver Nduhungirehe recently told the Associated Press no such deal has ever been reached, and a Ugandan official dismissed it as "fake news".

The Herzliya protest was followed by a second demonstration outside President Reuven Rivlin’s residence in Jerusalem where dozens of Eritreans and Sudanese held signs reading, “Don’t despair, we will stop the expulsion.”

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