Feb. 7 (UPI) — Thousands of African asylum seekers gathered at the Rwandan Embassy in Israel on Wednesday to protest the country’s plan to deport the migrants or lock them up.
The Israeli government’s offer gives the migrants 60 days to accept one of two options: leave the country for an unnamed African destination in exchange for $3,500 and a plane ticket or be incarcerated indefinitely.
The destination is believed to be the East African country of Rwanda, the Jerusalem Post reported.
In front of the Rwandan Embassy, protesters urged Rwanda and its president, Paul Kagame, not to cooperate. Protesters held signs saying “Kagame, we’re not for sale,” and chanted “We are refugees — we are not criminals” and “Rwanda shame on you.”
Protesters also condemned the African country for accepting money in exchange for their exile, something Rwanda’s Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe has denied.
“Don’t sell me to Rwanda,” a 23-year-old pleaded. “Please give us the honor of not calling us criminals. We are refugees who came to Israel for protection.”
On Sunday, authorities began issuing deportation notices to asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, initially to men without children seeking to renew residence visas. Israeli authorities plan to begin making arrests in about two months.
Israeli Interior Minister Arye Dery wrote on Twitter, “In contrast to the fake news, there is no danger to the labor infiltrators we are deporting to third countries.”
Some asylum seekers who were already sent to Rwanda claim when they arrived, their documents were seized and they were jailed.