Israeli authorities are exploring the possibility of deporting African migrants and asylum-seekers to Sudan and Eritrea, according to Israeli daily Haaretz on Tuesday.
In a letter to member of Knesset (parliament) Mossi Raz, Interior Minister Arye Dery said his ministry has held talks regarding the available options to deport African asylum-seekers.
“We’re generating a picture of the general situation in Sudan and Eritrea and the implications thereof,” Dery wrote.
He, however, said the current policy of not forcing refugees to leave Israel remains in force since “at this stage, no decision has yet been made”.
In another letter to Raz, Yariv Levin, the minister in charge of liaising with the Knesset, said the deportation of asylum-seekers “is being considered, subject to a situation assessment of the threat posed to them.”
An Interior Ministry official involved in the issue confirmed the discussions regarding the deportation of African asylum-seekers from the country.
“The overall solution is that they won’t remain here,” he said. “We’re constantly seeking solutions to get them out of here, and the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are working on various possibilities.”
In April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has scrapped a deal with UN refugee agency UNHCR regarding the deportation of African migrants and asylum-seekers.
Under the deal, Israel would have sent 16,250 African migrants to western countries, while thousands more would have been granted a 5-year temporary residency in Israel.
Israel is currently home to some 40,000 asylum-seekers, including 27,500 from Eritrea and 7,800 from Sudan, according to UNHCR figures.
Most of them arrived in Israel — via Egypt — during the period from 2006 to 2013 before a security fence was erected along the border between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (HRM), an Israeli NGO based in Tel Aviv, most of these migrants and asylum-seekers are concentrated in south Tel Aviv and in other cities.
Since 2012, Israel has deported roughly 20,000 African migrants and asylum-seekers who had entered the country illegally.