- Title: African migrants protest over Israel's threat to jail them unless they leave
- Date: 22nd January 2018
- Summary: PROTESTER HOLDING UP THEIR HANDS AS IF THEY WERE SHACKLED
- Embargoed: 5th February 2018 15:14
- Keywords: Israel African migrants protest deportation embassy of Rwanda
- Location: HERZLIYA, ISRAEL
- City: HERZLIYA, ISRAEL
- Country: Israel
- Topics: Asylum/Immigration/Refugees,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0067Z715C7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A few thousand African migrants protested on Monday (January 22) outside the embassy of Rwanda against Israel's plan to pay thousands of African migrants living illegally in the country to leave, threatening them with jail if they are caught after the end of March.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said a barrier Israel completed in 2013 along its border with Egypt had effectively cut off a stream of "illegal infiltrators" from Africa after some 60,000 crossed the desert frontier.
The vast majority came from Eritrea and Sudan and many said they fled war and persecution as well as economic hardship, but Israel treats them as economic migrants.
The plan offers African migrants a $3,500 payment from the Israeli government and a free air ticket to return home or go to "third countries", which rights groups identified as Rwanda and Uganda.
An immigration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there are some 38,000 migrants living illegally in Israel, and some 1,420 are being held in two detention centers.
Some have lived for years in Israel and work in low-paying jobs that many Israelis shun. Israel has granted asylum to fewer than one percent of those who have applied and has a years-long backlog of applicants.
Rights groups have accused Israel of being slow to process African migrants' asylum requests as a matter of policy and denying legitimate claims to the status.
Netanyahu has called the migrants' presence a threat to Israel's social fabric and Jewish character, and one government minister has referred to them as "a cancer".
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