Israel offers to pay African migrants to leave or get jailed

African migrants used to illustrate the story [Photo Credit: Quartz]

The Israeli government has issued a notice for thousands of African migrants to leave the country or face imprisonment.

Israel said on Wednesday that it would pay thousands of Africa migrants living illegally in the country to leave, threatening them with jail if they are caught after the end of March.

Each migrant will be given up to $3,500 (about N1.2 million) to leave within the next 90 days. They will also be given the option of going to their home countries or third countries.

If they do not leave, the Israeli authorities have threatened that they will start jailing them from April.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority told the BBC that there were currently 38,000 “infiltrators” in Israel, of whom just 1,420 were being held in detention facilities.

“Beyond the end of March, those who leave voluntarily will receive a significantly smaller payment that will shrink even more with time, and enforcement measures will begin,” the official said.

Israel uses the term “infiltrators” to describe people who did not enter the country through an official border crossing.

Many of the migrants who are mostly from Eritrea and Sudan say they came to Israel to seek asylum after fleeing persecution and conflict, but the authorities regard them as economic migrants.

The United Nations refugee agency said the controversial plan violated international and Israeli laws.

The Israeli government says their return will be humane and “voluntary”.

And the order exempts children, elderly people, and victims of slavery and human trafficking.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that an unchecked influx of African migrants could threaten Israel’s Jewish character.

“We have expelled about 20,000 and now the mission is to get the rest out,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

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