Interior Ministry officials on Thursday released a 10-year-old girl from
detention at Ketziot Prison, where she was being held with three members of her
family, after an activist posted a picture on Facebook that claimed that the
girl was from Sudan and not South Sudan as originally thought.
photograph drew the attention of Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
began deporting members of the country’s 700-1,500-strong community of South
Sudanese on Sunday, but cannot deport those from Sudan, an enemy
The story began on Wednesday when an activist from Arad named
Moran Mekamel sent a friend a picture of fifth-grader Chris, who was detained
earlier this week along with her parents and her twin brother during round-ups
of South Sudanese this week.
Mekamel’s friend, Yigal Shtayim, is a
well-known activist in Tel Aviv who runs the “Levinsky Soup” charity that has
handed out soup and other hot meals to African asylumseekers living in Levinsky
Shtayim shared the story on his wall and the post was then picked
up by “Chirping Statuses,” a Facebook page that shares humorous or notable
statuses, and has over 100,000 likes. Hours later, a reply was posted from
Yishai’s personal Facebook page, in which the minister vowed to examine the case
and release the family if it turns out that they are in fact from
By Thursday afternoon, Interior Ministry officials released the
family while they carry out a final determination of their status.
Thursday, Shtayim called the development a victory, but added that it
highlighted how “there are similar people in detention now with such stories,
and hopefully through this story, the government will start doing what the UN
has been asking, and that is to examine each person’s country of origin
thoroughly before taking them into detention and deportation.”
situation isn’t so simple, according to Sabine Haddad, the spokeswoman for the
Population, Immigration and Border Authority.
According to Haddad, the
family was registered when they arrived in Israel as South Sudanese because they
are Christian and most likely from an area near Sudan’s southern
“When they received their visas, they did so as South Sudanese
and now that they were arrested, they said that they are from Sudan,” Haddad
said, adding that the family has only been released while the case is examined,
and no final decision on their status has been made.
Haddad said it is
not uncommon for migrants to change which country they say they are from when
the opportunity suits them, adding that they know of a large number of Ethiopian
migrants who claim to be Eritrean because Israel cannot legally deport Eritreans
to their homeland.