African migrant walks with suitcase in south Tel Aviv 370 (R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )
Officials from the South Sudan Interior Ministry arrived in Israel on Wednesday
to help oversee the deportation of their country’s citizens detained by
immigration officials this week, the Foreign Ministry said.
delegation is purely bureaucratic and is no way political in nature, a Foreign
Ministry official said, adding that the officials will help process the
repatriation of their citizens and will also examine if any of those slated for
deportation could be eligible to receive refugee status in Israel.
official added that since repatriation requires the cooperation of the home
country, the delegation will be in Israel until Sunday.
The official said
that he had not heard of any statements made by the officials criticizing the
government’s decision to deport South Sudanese citizens, but added that recent
anti-migrant statements by Israeli MKs, and violence directed at migrants, “are
not doing us any good anywhere in the world, neither in terms of the bilateral
discussions on repatriation nor on multilateral level in terms of our relations
with organizations around the world.”
Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the
Population, Immigration, and Border Authority, announced on Wednesday that
immigration enforcement officers have arrested around 300 migrants since
“Operation Going Home” began on Sunday morning, and that another 300 have signed
papers agreeing to leave. She said that the vast majority of them are South
Sudanese, with a small number of illegal migrants from elsewhere in Africa,
Europe and Asia.
Haddad said the government has already organized one
charter flight on Sunday to take around 150 people to South Sudan, and that
Israeli authorities may order a second charter flight for Sunday to take back
people who have signed return papers.
She added that the deportation
sweeps by immigration officers will continue in the coming days.
deportations follow a decision by the Jerusalem District Court last Thursday to
reject a petition by human rights groups that called for banning the deportation
of South Sudanese on the grounds that their lives would be endangered by
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that
“we are taking care of the infiltrators problem. In another few months the
[Sinai] fence will be finished and we will stop the flow of
Netanyahu mentioned Israel’s efforts to begin building a
holding facility for infiltrators, and to stiffen penalties for employers hiring
“We have also decided to return the [African migrants]
to their home countries. We will solve this problem,” the prime minister
As the detentions continued on Wednesday, Public Security Minister
Yitzhak Aharonovitch condemned what he described as the populist manner in which
the Interior Ministry was handling the deportations.
“I don’t like – and
that’s an understatement – the public relations, or that media photographers
were added [to the Interior Ministry’s Oz Unit making the arrests],” the
minister told Army Radio.
“Photographing the migrants during their arrest
is wrong and it’s populist. These are human beings, and their human
dignity must be safeguarded,” Aharonovitch added.
He accused the Interior
Ministry of seeking to show off to the public in an effort to prove how
effective it was, adding that in reality, “Only dozens or a hundred” migrants
South Sudanese number between 700 and 1,500 out of the
total illegal African migrant population of over 60,000 in Israel. An estimated
85 to 90 percent are from Eritrea and Sudan and cannot be deported, because they
would stand to be persecuted upon return.