The Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) began loading South Sudanese migrants onto buses in cities around Israel Sunday, ahead of their flight back to South Sudan.
The first plane carrying 120 South Sudanese migrants was slated to leave Israel on Sunday night.
PIBA announced Friday that it was extending the one-week deadline for South Sudanese migrants to voluntarily leave Israel in exchange for 1,000 euros and a flight ticket home courtesy of the State of Israel.
The Interior Ministry issued the ultimatum last week, saying the migrants would be arrested and expelled after the deadline was up.
PIBA stated that some 300 people
in the South Sudanese migrant community had already opted to leave voluntarily.
The entire community is estimated at between 700 and 1,500 people. The one-week
deadline was extended due to the relative success of the operation, according to
PIBA, which did not specify until when it would extend the
“Operation Going Back Home” was put into effect after the
Jerusalem District Court ruled last week that the South Sudanese would not be in
physical danger if they were returned to their country.
authorities have arrested some 300 South Sudanese migrants since the operation
began, in addition to the 300 who have agreed to leave
Members of a South Sudanese delegation visiting Israel told
The Jerusalem Post
on Friday that Israeli government officials promised them that the migrants who
were arrested in the past week would be released until their
The delegation held a town hall meeting in Tel Aviv on
Friday with South Sudanese residents of Israel, where it spoke to them about the
ongoing deportations and presented Israel’s point of view on the
The meeting was held inside the “Sudanese Cush Church” on Levanda
Street near the Central Bus Station, and over 100 well-dressed South Sudanese
residents of Israel attended. The atmosphere was at times argumentative, with
members of the crowd passing around a microphone and describing in Arabic their
experiences in Israel, often with a degree of anger. The members of the
delegation, to their credit, took turns giving talks to the crowd, at times
cracking jokes to raucous laughter. The meeting ended with prayers given by
South Sudanese Pastor William Deng, with shouts of “Hallelujah” rising from the
Speaking outside the meeting, Abdon Terkoc Matuet of the
South Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the delegation’s mission was “to
encourage our citizens – South Sudan citizens – to voluntarily register and go
back to South Sudan because we are in need of our citizens to participate in
development, and thank God that they were willing to go voluntarily without
He said the Israeli government was cooperating with the
delegation, having announced it would release those South Sudanese it had
previously arrested, not arrest any others and give them time to register and be
“So we thank the State of Israel for having kept our
people during the war and transporting them back to their country,” Matuet
However, PIBA said no such deal was reached.
that the migrants had been the recipients of group protection because of the war
in South Sudan, but with the war over and South Sudan an independent country,
there was no longer any reason they could not go back there and be normal
When asked about how footage of the arrests of South Sudanese
played back in South Sudan, Matuet said: “It sent a negative signal, but now
having talked to them [the South Sudanese], they understand that any country
needs to organize foreigners in their country. In South Sudan we do too. We have
foreigners and we ask them to go back, those who are staying illegally.”