“All we wanted was more time, and Israel will not show us any mercy,” South
Sudanese migrant Simon Mayer said on Monday, hours after immigration authorities
launched a new wave of detentions of South Sudanese across the
Mayer said that members of Israel’s South Sudanese population,
which numbers around 700, were for the most part staying behind closed doors on
Monday to avoid getting scooped up by immigration authorities.
mass confusion continues to grip the community, as well as bitterness about a
protest campaign waged in recent months that failed to reach the hearts and
minds of most Israelis.
“We held these [protest] actions for the past
four months, showed people how our children are crying and nothing helped,
nobody showed mercy. We won’t do this again, we don’t want the press to come and
show a funeral on national television.”
As he spoke, the arrests
continued in south Tel Aviv, Eilat, and elsewhere across Israel, while a group
of four men sat outside a South Sudanese community center in the Neveh Sha’anan
center, with looks of exhaustion on their faces. Inside the center, several
Sudanese napped in a single room and a number of men present said that they were
prepared to go when the officers come to arrest them.
Around the corner
on Tchelnov Street, 39-year-old Simon Koang Gai continued to work on a leather
bar stool at the “Holy Land” upholstery store he runs. The father of four had
only minutes earlier watched immigration officials arrest several of his friends
from a building a few doors down, but he said he would continue working until
the officials came to arrest him.
He also said that while his children
and wife are already booked on a flight leaving next week, he will stay behind
until the last minute, partly so he can receive a paycheck he is owed by an
Eilat hotel where he worked for a few weeks earlier this year.
come I’ll be ready though,” Koang Gai said, before pointing at a small messenger
bag on a wooden table.
“See that bag, when I came to Israel that’s all I
had on my shoulder. If I have to, I can leave with just that.”
to The Jerusalem Post from Juba on Monday, former Jerusalemite Kai Khong talked
about the confusion on the streets of the South Sudanese capital following
reports of the deportations.
“We started hearing about it last week on
the television after the court made the decision. There’s a lot of confusion in
the news, we don’t [know] the real reason why they want to send South Sudanese
Khong, who lived in Israel for six years before moving back
to South Sudan after the country became independent in July, said the decision
to deport South Sudanese could harm relations between Israel and the new African
“The South Sudanese people love Israel, but this could change.
People who come back could tell them, Israel is not our friend, and this is what
I’m worried about,” Khong said, adding “South Sudan is a young country so it
must look to other countries for help and decide which ones are its friends and
which ones aren’t.”
Khong, who says he was the first South Sudanese in
the country when he moved to Israel by way of Sinai in 2005, is now unemployed
in Juba, and says a similar fate awaits those South Sudanese who return to the
country after they are deported from Israel.
“They will not find jobs
when they come back here, the country is very very newborn. If some people come
back here with an education, maybe they can find jobs, but if not there are no
More than anything though, he expressed the confusion common
among his compatriots in facing deportation in Israel.
“Why go after
these few hundred South Sudanese when there are thousands of other Africans in
Israel? This is the big question on the street in Juba. We just don’t know
This week’s arrests by immigration officers of several dozen
African migrants in the south and center of Israel is the first step in the
eventual expulsion of all illegal migrants from Israel, Interior Minister Eli
Yishai said Monday.
On Monday, immigration authorities rounded up some 50
illegal African migrants, following the arrests on Sunday of 25, including eight
South Sudanese in Eilat.
The Population, Immigration, and Border
Authority did not release official arrest figures by Monday afternoon, as the
number was still rising.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Yishai said the real
crux of the problem is the Eritreans and Sudanese who make up around 90 percent
of Israel’s illegal African migrant community.
Yishai vowed to work to
eventually expel them from Israel as well, adding that “I am not working out of
hate of foreigners; I am working out of love for my nation.”
on this mission would be tantamount to giving up on the declaration of
independence,” he added.
According to Yishai, the detainees will be taken
to a holding facility in the south of Israel and by next week will be on a
charter flight to South Sudan.
The arrests follow a ruling issued by the
Jerusalem District Court last Thursday, which rejected a petition by human
rights groups to bar the expulsion of South Sudanese migrants, saying that the
NGOs had not proven that the lives of returnees would be in danger if they
The arrests also began Sunday in spite of promises that South
Sudanese would have a week to voluntarily leave before arrests
Orit Marom of ASSAF, the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum
Seekers in Israel, slammed the arrests as a “shame.”
ready for school were taken from their homes in the early morning,” she told The
Jerusalem Post. “It’s despicable.
How do they expect these people to
submit individual requests to stay in Israel, as the state required of them,
[while in custody]?”
The Population, Immigration and Border Authority said that
though the week had not passed, they were still allowed to begin arresting the