Jerusalem Fire and Rescue spokesman Asaf Abras said the fire in the apartment building was confined to the first floor, which was occupied by 10 people. Three people were treated at a local hospital and released, he said.
The spray-painted phrase "Get out of the neighborhood" could be prominently seen on the side of the building, firefighters said. The building was home to workers mostly from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat assailed the incident and ordered his police chief to "act with a strong hand" against similar actions, the Jerusalem Post reported Monday.
The fire came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an acceleration of efforts to deport citizens of South Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Ethiopia, Haaretz said Monday, adding that citizens of Eritrea and Sudan would not be expelled because of the possible risk to their lives in returning to their home countries.