Interior Minister Aryeh Deri told a Knesset committee Monday that there is a third-party country that has agreed to take African migrants who will be deported from Israel.
Deri told the Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection Committee that there was “unequivocal assent with a third country over forced expulsion,” though he did not name the country.
It is widely believed to be Rwanda or Uganda, despite denials by those governments.
“I take responsibility for saying this, despite the news from the last few days, that everything is being done with full agreement of the third-party country, which knows everything to the last detail,” Deri said.
The committee meeting was called to discuss the public outcry against the plan to deport thousands of African migrants.
Last month of an amendment to the so-called “Infiltrator’s Law” paved the way for the forced deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese migrants and asylum seekers starting in March. It also makes legal the indefinite imprisonment of those who refuse to leave voluntarily.
There are approximately 38,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Interior Ministry. About 72 percent are Eritrean and 20% are Sudanese, and the vast majority arrived between 2006 and 2012. Many live in south Tel Aviv, and some residents and activists blame them for rising crime rates and have lobbied the government for their deportation.
According to the government plan, migrants who choose to leave by March 31 will receive a payment of $3,500 as well as free airfare and other incentives, according to reports.
Israeli rabbis, doctors, pilots and Holocaust survivors have come out against the deportations.
Deri said his office will draw a distinction between Africans who came to Israel seeking work and refugees who came from war zones seeking sanctuary. He said anyone who submitted requests for asylum by December 31, 2017, and whose request has not yet been processed, will not be deported, including mothers, children and families.
Most young African migrants who did not arrive with children did not submit requests for asylum, Deri said. Israel has begun to deport them to a third-party country.
A total of 14,700 asylum requests were submitted in 2017, Deri told the committee — 7,700 from Ukrainians, 906 from Sudanese and the rest from other countries.
Several lawmakers were ejected from the committee meeting as the debate on the expulsions became heated. As she was being ejected, Tamar Zandberg of the liberal Meretz party shouted at members of the right-wing Likud, “You’re friends with Nazis.”
Later she told reporters, “I stand by my assertion that the ruling party’s ties to anti-Semitic and Nazi parties in Europe are a disgrace to the State of Israel and to its government.”