By Hassan Isilow
Rights groups and activists have expressed outrage at Israel’s decision to order thousands of African migrants to leave the country by April or face imprisonment.
“We have had a history of being migrants, and we find this treatment of African migrants disturbing and racist,” Jessica Sherman, spokesperson for Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP), told Anadolu Agency Wednesday.
Israel’s Interior Ministry announced Tuesday that African migrants -- except the elderly, victims of human trafficking, and children -- will be given $3,500 to return to their home countries or be relocated to a third country such as Rwanda or Uganda.
In November, Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Rwanda’s New Times that the country had agreed to take 10,000 migrants and asylum-seekers living in Israel.
“We strongly condemn this decision made by Israel. It’s not the first time they are making this call,” Alex Mdakane of the South African Communist Party, a coalition partner of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), told Anadolu Agency.
He said they will be speaking to South African leaders to urge them to take action on the matter. “The maltreatment of migrants in Israel should stop,” he said in a telephone interview.
According to media reports, there are approximately 38,000 migrants living in Israel, most of them from Eritrea and Sudan.
Most migrants claim they are in the country to seek asylum from political persecution and wars back home.
'Insult to Africa'
“Israel’s racist policy on African migrants stinks. If anyone ever doubted the Zionist regime’s apartheid makeup, let them look no further than Israel’s injustices against African migrants,” said Iqbal Jassat of the Johannesburg-based advocacy group Media Review Network (MRN).
He said it was sad that Israel is mistreating African migrants and yet at the same time trying to build alliances with some countries on the continent.
“We view it as an insult to Africa and call on leaders, institutions and civil society to adopt firm measures in defense of the human rights of migrants.”
Kwara Kekana, spokesman of the South African chapter of the global Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS), said: “This is shocking but not surprising as Israel’s racism against Africans and Palestinians has been on the rise.”
She said there is now more reason for Africa to hold Israel more accountable through the BDS campaign.
Efforts to reach Israel’s Embassy in South Africa for comment were unsuccessful.