S. Sudanese illegals ask UN to help delay deportation

Six weeks ahead of deportation from Israel, South Sudanese group protest gov't decision outside UNHCR office.

February 19, 2012 11:43
2 minute read.
South Sudanese kids protest outside UNHCR office

South Sudanese kids protest outside UNHCR office 390. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)


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Six weeks before they face deportation from Israel, a group of South Sudanese held a rally yesterday outside the United Nations High Committee for Refugees office in Tel Aviv, where they called on the UNHCR to help postpone the government’s decision.

South Sudanese in Israel have until March 31 to leave the country willingly or face deportation, according to the decision announced by the Interior Ministry earlier this month.

The crowd outside the UNHCR office numbered a few dozen and was predominantly children. They held signs reading “Don’t send me to die” and “South Sudan is dangerous,” while chanting “who will protect us.”

Organizers called on the UNHCR to heed the warnings of a report compiled by Valerie Amos, emergency relief coordinator at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “The situation in the country is extremely precarious, and the risk of a dangerous decline is very real,” she said after returning from a trip to South Sudan at the beginning of February.

Amos also spoke of the country’s food crisis.

Khaled Simberi, a South Sudanese asylum-seeker, said the protesters were asking for the UN “to speak to the prime minister and tell him our country is still not safe to return to.”

The protesters are asking to be allowed to stay in Israel for the time being, until South Sudan is safe and stable enough to return to, Simberi said. He did not specify for how long.

The dangers faced in South Sudan are not limited to the fighting in the northern areas near the border with Sudan, but also have to do with the country’s lack of infrastructure, health service and clean water supply, according to Simberi.

A number of the chants on Sunday morning were directed at William Tall, Israel’s UNHCR representative.

Tall said he met with protesters during the rally and showed them a letter that the UNHCR received this month, in which the government promises to hear individual asylum requests submitted by South Sudanese in Israel.

Tall argued that Israel does have the right to lift the temporary protection status placed on South Sudanese asylum-seekers now that their country is independent. The situation was different before independence, in that the asylum-seekers were citizens of an enemy state [Sudan] and could thus not be repatriated by Israel, he clarified.

Many of the South Sudanese are not entirely familiar with the difference between refugee claims and humanitarian claims for assistance, Tall said.

Still, Tall added that the government should examine individual asylum requests submitted by South Sudanese who do not wish to return to their country.

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