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