Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Israel planning to deport African migrants to 'east African country'

photo: Activestills
Date: 3.6.13 Source: TheGuardian

Israel plans to send thousands of African migrants to an unidentified country, according to a court document, in an attempt to address one of Israel's more pressing issues: what to do with an influx of roughly 60,000 African migrants who have sneaked into Israel from Egypt over the past eight years.

Most of the migrants have come from Eritrea or Sudan, some fleeing repressive regimes and others looking for work.

Over the past year Israel has taken a series of steps to halt the influx. It built a fence along the border with Egypt and last year offered some migrants cash to leave voluntarily, warning they would be expelled otherwise.

According to the document, a state lawyer told the Israeli supreme court on Sunday that a deal had been reached with an unidentified country to absorb some migrants and that Israel was in talks with two other countries to secure a similar agreement. The details of the arrangement were not disclosed, although the state lawyer, Yochi Gnesin, said the return of migrants would be "gradual".

Few other details of the deal were available. Israeli Army Radio reported that the country was in east Africa and did not suffer from any unrest that would harm the migrants. The Haaretz daily said that Israel had agreed to provide agricultural expertise as part of the deal.

Israeli officials have declined to comment on the potential deal. On Sunday the supreme court ordered the government to provide details of the arrangement, including the name of the African country, within seven days.