Israeli authorities began handing out deportation notices to African asylum seekers on Sunday as part of a government plan to expatriate some 38,000 people, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Interior Ministry said.
The notices, which give the asylum seeker two months to leave Israel or face imprisonment, are being issued to men without children.
The plan has been met with backlash by international human rights groups and Israeli NGOs that say deporting the mostly Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers would violate international law and place them in harm's way.
The Israeli government classifies the asylum seekers as economic immigrants, using the term "infiltrators."
According to the plan, asylum seekers who choose to leave on their own are given $3,500 and a plane ticket to an unknown third country. Women, children and fathers with dependent children are excluded from the deportation plan.
Starting in April, the $3,500 allotment will be gradually reduced and those who do not leave can be imprisoned.
Many asylum seekers have said they prefer imprisonment over returning to Africa.
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