150 Sudanese asylum seekers returned to Sudan

'Post' learns: Over the past year and a half, hundreds of Sudanese, who volunteered to return, transported in clandestine operations.

By RON FRIEDMAN
December 13, 2010 22:11
2 minute read.
A family of African migrants outside the Knesset (file)

311_African migrants. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

One hundred and fifty Sudanese migrants were flown from Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday evening to an undisclosed third country, en route to their homes in Southern Sudan.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that over the past year and a half, several hundred Sudanese nationals, who volunteered to return, have been transported back in clandestine operations.

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According to William Tall, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative to Israel, the UN was aware of the repatriation efforts and made sure that the Sudanese were not being returned against their will.

“We know about the repatriation efforts enacted by the Israeli government and have met and interviewed every one of the returning Sudanese nationals to make sure that they weren’t coerced in any way,” Tall said.

In October, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that it was taking steps to see if there were any African countries wiling to take in foreign nationals who entered Israel illegally through the Egyptian border, for a price. However, the details on potential destinations and the cost of such an initiative remained uncertain, and nobody expected things to happen so quickly.

“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed the relevant government offices to search for countries that would be willing to absorb economic migrants who entered Israel illegally. The move is part of a series of initiatives aimed at avoiding the flooding of Israel by infiltrators and protecting its democratic and Jewish character,” read the statement in late October.

The Post has learned that the returning asylum-seekers were given stipends of $400- $500 to help in their resettlement.

The Hotline for Migrant Workers and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel issued a joint statement in response to the news reports on the deportation, expressing grave concerns for the well-being of the returning Sudanese and saying that the publication of their return put the asylum-seekers at risk.

“This is not the first time in human history that people returned to countries where they were in danger because the country in which they sought refuge shirked its responsibilities and made their lives miserable,” read the statement.

According to a UN source, the government received the UN’s approval for every one of the participating returnees, making sure that they were not incarcerated or under threat of deportation when volunteering to return, conditions that would suggest that they were being coerced to leave.

The source also said that all of the returning asylum-seekers were from Southern Sudan and not from Darfur in the country’s west, as reported elsewhere.

Israel is home to an estimated 5,500 Sudanese asylum-seekers and more than 31,000 asylumseekers from other African countries.

The government recently decided on a series of efforts to curb illegal immigration across the Egyptian border, including the construction of a physical barrier, a ban on employing migrants, the establishment of a holding facility meant to hold 10,000 of them, and negotiation with African countries to absorb migrants who entered Israel illegally.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment when asked about the matter.

The spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority also refused to comment.


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