South Sudanese kids protest outside UNHCR office 390.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
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
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
Amos also spoke of the country’s food crisis.
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
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.
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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
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
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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