JERUSALEM — The recent release of 1,200 prisoners from a detention center in the Negev Desert is not a signal that Israel is rethinking its harsh treatment of refugees. Thousands of immigrants still face a choice between imprisonment and repatriation to their war-torn countries.
Some 65,000 African refugees are believed to currently live in Israel. In May, The Washington Post reported that Israel sent letters to 45,000 refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, offering them a choice: They could accept accept a cash payment and a one-way ticket back to Africa, or they could go to prison. Israel also began construction of a massive fence to prevent the entry of more refugees this year.
In February, Amnesty International strongly objected to the treatment of African refugees in Israel, both in and out of detention: