By Enes Canli
JERUSALEM - Hundreds of African migrants in Holot detention center on Wednesday started a hunger strike against Israel's disputed policy on them to leave the country or face imprisonment.
According to local media, the hunger strike came after seven Eritreans were jailed for refusing to leave the country.
Last December, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a law paving the way for the forced deportations of migrants.
Israeli authorities offer $3,500 and a ticket to each refugee to leave the country willingly or face imprisonment. Refugees, who do not agree to leave Israel by March 31, will be put behind bars.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January said that the implementation was needed for border security and Israel will not allow illegal migration and they will deport "infiltrators".
According to figures from Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Authority, some 55,000 African migrants and asylum-seekers currently reside in the country, roughly 90 percent of whom hail from either Sudan or Eritrea.
Most of them arrived in Israel -- via Egypt -- during the period from 2006 to 2013 before a security fence was erected along the border between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Since 2012, Israel has deported about 20,000 African migrants and asylum-seekers who illegally entered the country.
Out of 13,764 asylum applications submitted as of July, only 10 Eritreans and one Sudanese national were granted official refugee status.