Human rights groups are calling Interior Minister Eli Yishai's plan to begin incarcerating Sudanese migrants "cruel."
On Wednesday Yishai said that Sudanese nationals who are residing in Israel illegally will be placed in detention facilities begninig October 15.
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In an interview with Ynet two weeks ago, Yishai revealed that he had instructed the Population and Immigration Authority to "begin arresting Eritrean and north Sudanese nationals" in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday he said the order would go into effect on October 15. The minister's office said migrants who will be arrested will be placed in detention facilities. Until then, the ministry "will provide assistance to African migrants who wish to leave the country voluntarily."
Yishai stressed that he plans to use all of his "clout" to obtain the legal authorization to detain and then deport African infiltrators. Some 15,000 Sudanese nationals and about 35,000 Eritreans currently live in Israel.
The minister said the move "is another step in the progress from talk to action in terms of the infiltrators issues. Those who want to keep talking and find themselves in the future facing the Committee of Inquiry over the loss of Israel, can keep talking. Those who want to work to ensure a Jewish and Zionist state for our children, should act. I chose to act."
Speaking to Channel 2, the minister said "we will make the lives of infiltrators bitter until they leave."
Amnesty International branded the measure as cruel and claimed that it violates the international commitments that Israel has made.
"(Yishai and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's) determination to present asylum seekers as criminals is in fact a manifestation of their desire to be liked by the Israeli public, even if it means acting immorally," an official at the human rights group said.
"The Israeli authorities are well aware that they cannot deport the asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan because their lives are in real danger," he added. "It's unfortunate that Israel chooses this moment to ignore reality."
Attorney Oded Feller, who heads the immigration and status division at the Association for Human Rights in Israel, accused the authorities of inhumanity.
"If Israel could send people back to Sudan, it would have done it a long time ago," he said. "The reason why asylum seekers – including survivors of the genocide in Darfur – have yet to be deported to Sudan is that there is no practical way to return there from Israel; those who do return face danger.
"Only a person who has lost his humanity can force asylum seekers and their children to deal with this cruel dilemma: to risk their lives by returning or being imprisoned for many years," he added.