The plan comes on the back of a November deal with Rwanda in which Israel agreed to pay $5,000 for every African migrant it accepts. Any migrant in the country who agrees to be sent to their home country or to a third country by March 2018 will receive $3,500, plus funds for their flight and assistance in arranging travel documents.
Speaking at the cabinet meeting that approved the scheme, Netanyahu said the "mission" was "to deport the illegal infiltrators who entered Israel prior to the construction of the new barrier with Egypt". However, the United Nations refugee agency said the move is a violation of global and Israel laws.
The Israeli government says the migrants' return will be humane and "voluntary".
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Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that an unchecked influx of African migrants could threaten Israel's Jewish character.
The plan has been opposed by human rights groups including the Centre for Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, who recently signed a letter demanding the deportations be halted.
The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group, condemned the move, saying expulsions "put the refugees' lives in danger".
In his remarks, Netanyahu cited the large presence of African migrants in Tel Aviv's poorer neighborhoods, where he said "veteran residents" - a reference to Israelis - no longer feel safe.
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Cognizant that migrants from Sudan and Eritrea have legitimate fears from the authorities in those countries if they are sent back, Israel has reportedly arranged for safe haven in Rwanda and Uganda, though there has been no official confirmation.
"The Israeli government's decision to expel 40,000 African asylum seekers is of great concern", he said. All eyewitness accounts tell us that those who are deported from Israel to Rwanda find themselves without status or rights and exposed to threats such as kidnapping, torture, and human trafficking.
In August, the High Court of Justice of the Near Eastern country ruled that since deportations can only be carried out with the agreement of migrants, the refusal to leave Israel cannot be considered a non-cooperative behavior, nor be punishable by jail. After spending years in Israel in dire conditions, 12 Eritrean migrants decided to make the journey to Rwanda.
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