While requesting visa renewal, dozens of African asylum seekers were notified by the Israel Population and Immigration Authority on Sunday that they have 60 days to either leave or face arrest for an indefinite time period.

Anti-deportation protest

Anti-deportation protest Photo Credit: Sebi Berens/Flash90

Dozens of African asylum seekers in Israel who arrived on Sunday morning to renew their visas received a letter from the Population and Immigration Authority notifying them that their next visa would not be renewed.  The notice asserted that the asylum seekers have 60 days to either return to their home countries or to Uganda and Rwanda.

Those who would not leave, the noticed explained, would be detained for an indefinite period. Many asylum seekers have told reporters that they would prefer to be imprisoned than to be deported to the African counties. 

Meanwhile, an Israeli campaign against the government’s deportation operation has been growing. Petitions signed by Israeli pilots, medical staff, teachers, politicians and activists have been circulating for several weeks.

Last month, anti-deportation protesters placed doll heads drenched in blood-like red paint at the entrance to the Population and Immigration Authority offices in Tel Aviv. The activists also placed notes saying, “Their blood is on your hands” and “This is only the beginning.” Police said the investigation into the incident will be prioritized because it targeted a government office.

There are over 35,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in the country. Most of them are from Eritrea and Sudan and predominately reside in southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods. In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed claims that Rwanda would be dangerous to the deportees.  “There are 180,000 refugees living there with UN sponsorship,” Netanyahu said during a Likud meeting. “Any claim that [Rwanda] is dangerous is a joke.”

As previously reported by JOL, the Rwandan government has officially denied that it will take in the African migrants and asylum seekers that Israel plans to deport. The spokesperson for the government wrote on Twitter that the reports about a secret Israel-Rwanda deal regarding the matter are nothing more than “rumors.”