Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Wednesday stepped up his campaign to rid Israel of asylum seekers, saying he intends to jail African migrants from Sudan and Eritrea illegally residing in Israel.
Legally, Israel, which has become a home to tens of thousands of African refugees and job-seekers, cannot deport migrants from Sudan and Eritrea as it has diplomatic relations with neither.
Yishai ordered the National Immigration Authority to prepare to house the migrants in specially built detention facilities in the south of Israel, saying he does not intend to wait for court authorization. “I shall not wait any longer,” the Shas minister told Channel 2 News, adding, “We will make their life in Israel hell so that they’ll wish to return to their countries of origin.”
The operation is set to start October 15, after the Jewish high holidays.
In June, the Jerusalem Administrative Court authorized the deportation of South Sudanese migrants back to their country of origin. The subsequent operation “Returning Home” saw some 1,500 South Sudanese depart from Israel.
There are currently approximately 35,000 migrants from Eritrea living in Israel, and 15,000 from Sudan.
Over the past months, tensions have been running particularly high between Israelis and illegal African migrants, resulting in large demonstrations and occasionally degenerating into violence, primarily in the Hatikvah neighborhood in south Tel Aviv.