JERUSALEM (JTA) –The Supreme Court of Israel has issued a temporary restraining order on a government plan to deport African asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan to a third country in Africa.
The court issued its decision on Thursday in response to a petition signed by 120 refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan.
The deportations will be suspended by at least two weeks, until hearings on the request resume, The Times of Israel reported. The injunction suspends the deportations “until further notice,” the report said.
The court’s ruling will not apply to African migrants who have already volunteered to leave Israel for a third African country, which has not been named but is believed to be either Rwanda or Uganda.
Israel’s Cabinet in January approved a plan and the budget to deport thousands of migrants from Sudan and Eritrea.
Prior to that, the Population and Immigration Authority notified the migrants that as of Jan. 1, they must return to their own countries or to a third nation, or be sent to jail until they are deported. According to the government plan, migrants who choose to leave by March 31 will receive a payment of $3,500 as well as free airfare and other incentives, according to reports.
For now, deportation notices will not be issued to women, children, fathers of children, anyone recognized as a victim of slavery or human trafficking, and those who had requested asylum by the end of 2017 but have not received a response, Haaretz reported.
There are up to 40,000 Eritreans and Sudanese living in Israel, including 5,000 children.
Human rights activists in Israel and major U.S. Jewish organizations have urged the Israeli government not to go ahead with the plan to force the migrants to choose between jail and deportation.