Israel is offering its citizens cold hard cash to enlist in a controversial new program aimed at deporting a large portion of its African asylum and refugee population.
Under the nation’s Population and Immigration Authority, civilians would become so-called “immigration inspectors” tasked with “carrying out enforcement tasks against illegal aliens and their employers” for the government’s immigration ministry, Newsweek reported. The ministry has offered “appropriate pay” and upwards of $8,600 in bonuses just to sweeten the deal.
Their goal? To hire at least 100 inspectors by March 2018. A notice posted by the ministry last week stated that 70 inspectors would be brought on for a two–month period to carry out the aforementioned tasks, as well as to “locate, detain and monitor illegal” individuals when necessary. Moreover, the ministry said it’d like to hire 40 people to aid in conducting “comprehensive questioning and investigation of asylum seekers.”
The news comes a week after the Israeli government announced the Assisted Voluntary Return program, which offers to pay thousands of African migrants and asylum seekers living in the country illegally to return to their native countries. Undocumented persons have until the end of March to take advantage of the program — or risk being jailed.
The incentive is a $3,500 payout from the Israeli government and a plane ticket to go back to their home.
An immigration official speaking on the condition of anonymity told Reuters earlier this month that there are an estimated 38,000 migrants living in Israel illegally, a large chunk of them coming from war-ravaged nations like Eritrea and South Sudan. The official added that some 1,400 migrants are being kept at two detention centers.
“Beyond the end of March, those who leave voluntarily will receive a significantly smaller payment that will shrink even more with time, and enforcement measures will begin,” the official said, alluding to incarceration.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has painted a less-than-pretty picture of the African migrants, describing their presence as a threat to Israel’s social fabric, Reuters reported. Another government minister likened them to “cancer.”
“Every country must monitor its borders,” Netanyahu said earlier this week. “Maintaining the borders from illegal infiltration is both a right and a basic duty of a sovereign state.”
The United Nation’s refugee agency is not a fan of Israel’s deportation plans, however. According to Newsweek, members of the agency are worried that the county’s strategy might force asylum seekers and migrants to make the dangerous voyage from Israel to Libya, and then eventually Europe.
A report from the International Organization for Migration found that nearly 2,550 refugees and migrants died trying to cross the Mediterranean to safety between Jan. 1 and Sept. 13, 2017.