Israeli officials distributed a wave of deportation notices Sunday to thousands of migrants, most of whom came to the country from Eritrea and Sudan, the Associated Press reported. Israel has given migrants two choices: a plane ticket out of the country—likely to Rwanda, per the AP—or jail.
In a statement discussing the decision last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “every country must guard its borders. [...] It is important that people understand that we are doing something here that is completely legal and completely essential.”
The AP reports:
In letters delivered Sunday, Israel says the migrants have 60 days to accept the offer to leave the country for an unnamed African destination in exchange for $3,500 and a plane ticket. Those who don’t by Apr. 1 will be incarcerated indefinitely.
About 60,000 migrants from across Africa came to Israel between 2005 and 2012, the New York Times reports, many of them Eritreans fleeing a corrupt and abusive government that a United Nations commission found enslaves, disappears, imprisons, tortures, and murders its citizens. It also “forcefully conscripts” young people “in a never-ending national service program.”
Protests condemning Israel’s decision to expel its African migrants have cropped up in Jerusalem and across the country in recent weeks. Hundreds of Jewish clergy and dozens of Holocaust survivors have written public letters urging Netanyahu to reverse his decision.