A combination of the desire to return home and the implementation of the amendment to the 1954 “infiltrators law” has lead several hundred asylum- seekers, possibly as many as a 1,000, to leave Israel for Sudan in the past six or seven months, according to assessments by an official with the UN in Israel.

A week and a half ago, The Jerusalem Post quoted a Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority spokesman as saying that several hundred Sudanese had agreed to be repatriated in recent months, as well as a small number of Eritreans. The Post also reported that a group of around 25 Eritreans had been offered the chance to leave Israel for Uganda, and later found themselves taken to the Eritrean embassy in Ramat Gan, where they learned that their offer involved returning to Eritrea, not Uganda.

The UN said it knew of no coordination with Ugandan authorities on the plan, which appears to have now been scuttled.

The UN official also stated that around 400 Sudanese agreed to return to Sudan after they were visited by Interior Ministry officials in detention centers in the South and advised that they can stay in prison or return to Sudan – an offer that the UN does not consider voluntary return.

However, the UN official did say they estimate that the majority of those who have returned voluntarily to Sudan were not being held in detention centers, and decided to go home via a third country for a number of reasons. These reasons include that they had lived in Israel for several years; had saved money; wanted to marry and have children; or wanted to be reunited with their families.

Earlier this week Interior Minister Eli Yishai presented figures saying that around 1,000 Africans had voluntary returned home, a number the UN says they estimate to be rounded up. Yishai’s statement came days after Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said at the Knesset that dozens of African “infiltrators” are returning home to their countries willingly every week.

Aharonovitch’s statement came in response to a question posed by Hadash MK Dov Henin, relating to reports of an Eritrean man beaten in south Tel Aviv and of police YASSAM officers raiding migrant bars.

Aharonovitch said he would look into these cases, adding that “there is no policy [in Israel] of pursuing or harassing infiltrators.”

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