Israel has started handing out notices to 20,000 male African migrants giving them two months to leave the country or risk being thrown in jail.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is offering the migrants, 3,500 dollars and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination in another country in sub-Saharan Africa.
Most of the victims are from Sudan and Eritrea.
The fate of some 37,000 Africans in Israel is posing a moral dilemma for a state founded as haven for Jews from persecution and a national home.
The right-wing government is under pressure from its nationalist voter base to expel the migrants, while others are calling for them to be taken in.
The government says the migrants are “infiltrators” looking for work rather than asylum.
The first eviction notices were handed out on Sunday while job advertisements for immigration inspectors to implement the deportation plan were posted on government websites.
Rights groups advocating on behalf of the migrants say many fled abuse and war and their expulsion, even to a different country in Africa, would endanger them further.
The groups have named Uganda and Rwanda as possible host countries.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Israel’s first obligation was to its own citizens, rather than the migrants.
Meanwhile, opposition to the plan has been building and some Israelis are now offering to take migrants at risk of expulsion into their homes.