South Sudanese in Tel Aviv 390.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Foreign Ministry believes it is legal to return South Sudanese migrants in
Israel to their homeland, according to an internal ministry document leaked to
Haaretz this week.
An official at the ministry told The Jerusalem Post
that the document had been put together recently, but added that it only related
to whether or not the migrants could be returned according to international law,
not whether or not they should be returned.
The official added that the
document was “absolutely not a recommendation that they should or should not be
Nonetheless, according to Haaretz
, the document will be part
of the ministry’s recommendation on whether Israel can end group protection for
South Sudanese in Israel.
“The Foreign Ministry thinks there is no
obligation in international law to grant asylum for socioeconomic reasons, but
rather if the financial and social situation in the country is so bad that it
causes the asylum-seekers to be risking their lives or can be classified as
cruel, inhuman or degrading,” Haaretz quoted the document as
According to the report, the document also calls on the
government to examine each asylum-seeker’s personal claim to see if they qualify
for refugee status.
The South Sudanese community of around 1,000 (2,000
according to Interior Ministry figures) was to face forced deportation on April
1, in keeping with a government decision that the Population, Immigration and
Border Authority (PIBA) announced on January 31. PIBA had said that following
the establishment of South Sudan as an independent country last July, these
migrants would no longer be considered refugees come April 1 and should prepare
Three days before the deportations were to begin, the
Jerusalem District Court issued an injunction barring the deportations until
April 15. The decision came after the Foreign Ministry contacted PIBA, asking
that it consider delaying the deportations to give the ministry time to examine
the situation on the ground in South Sudan.
Orit Marom of ASSAF, the Aid
Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, said Tuesday that her
organization and others were calling on the Interior Ministry to wait and
interview each South Sudanese person individually, rather than sending them back
without fully examining their requests for asylum.
She added that a
ministry-organized flight of South Sudanese was heading back on Sunday,
consisting of families who she said were not allowed to work in Israel and were
returning willfully “because they haven’t been able to pay rent and are the
desperate of the desperate.”
“We are calling on the government to wait
and see what develops in South Sudan, which at [any moment] could be in the
middle of a total war,” she said.