The Population and Immigration Authority called this week on migrants from Sudan and Eritrea to leave "to their country or to a third country," meaning Rwanda or Uganda. Those who leave by the end of March will be given $3,500, along with airfare and other incentives.
The ultimatum is part of a large-scale campaign to remove 42,000 illegal African migrants from Israel.
The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group, condemned the move Tuesday, saying expulsions "put the refugees' lives in danger."
Thousands of Africans entered Israel before it erected a fence along its border with Egypt. Many say they fled conflict and persecution and seek refugee status. Israel calls them "infiltrators" and says they are mostly economic migrants whose numbers threaten its Jewish character.
Although the government unanimously approved a bill last month to close the Holot detention facility which houses African illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, the plan still depends on successfully expelling the inhabitants to Rwanda, a move which has raised concerns among human rights groups.
Israel and Rwanda recently signed an agreement whereby asylum seekers can be sent there even without their consent.
Asylum seekers have been sent to Rwanda for the past three years as part of a plan encouraging voluntary emigration.
Professor Galia Sabar, President of the Ruppin Academic Center, Chair of African Studies at Tel Aviv University and a scholar of Immigration, was the first to examine what actually happened to the Sudanese and Eritreans who left "willingly" to Rwanda with a promise that they would be able to start a new life there.
"Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers cannot be returned to their country of origin according to the UN charter," explained Sabar. "But Israel assumes that since he is a black African, we can send him to another African country. But how can he cope there? He has no work, he does not speak the language, the state does not offer a social net and he is not in a familiar or welcoming environment."
In August, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told residents of south Tel Aviv that he was facing a “mission to return” the area “back to Israel”, three days after the High Court of Justice ruled that the State of Israel cannot detain illegal migrants for more than 60 days.
Paying a rare visit to south Tel Aviv—the area which has been seriously affected by the wave of illegal migration in recent years that swept through Israel’s once-porous southern border—Netanyahu inaugurated a new police station and received a briefing from the police, before addressing the matter.