Israel gives Ivorian migrants 2 weeks to leave

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2012 7:51 AM
Israel gives Ivorian migrants 2 weeks to leave

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Thursday gave illegal immigrants from the Ivory Coast two weeks to leave the country, the latest step in its crackdown on Africans who have entered the country unlawfully.

"Whoever leaves in this period will receive a stipend, those who do not will be sent away," Interior Minister Eli Yishai said in a statement announcing the deadline.

Israel has been alarmed by an influx of migrants from Africa through its porous border with Egypt and this month launched weekly airlifts to deport a few hundred South Sudanese back to their newly-founded state.

The ministry said there were around 2,000 Ivorians in the country illegally, out of a total of some 60,000 African migrants who Israel says are mostly job-seekers and threaten to upset demographics in the Jewish state.

Humanitarian organizations say the migrants should be considered for asylum and some Israelis have been troubled that their country, founded by war refugees and immigrants, should be packing off foreigners en masse.

It is legally questionable whether the majority of African migrants in Israel, some 50,000 people from war-ravaged Eritrea and Sudan, could be deported.

Ivorian migrants who leave on their own volition will receive a sum of $500 for each adult and $100 per each child, Yishai's ministry said.

"Infiltrators that do not leave in this period will be arrested and will lose eligibility for the stipend," it said in the statement.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Dan Williams and Robin Pomeroy)