South Sudanese protest against deportation 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
More than a thousand South Sudanese and their supporters protested near the Tel
Aviv Cinematheque on Saturday night under the banner “South Sudan is dangerous,”
to ask for more time in Israel before returning to their country. They are due
to be deported this month.
On January 31, the Population, Immigration and
Borders Authority said that because South Sudanese now have their own country,
and one that has friendly relations with Israel, they have until April 1 to
leave Israel willingly or face deportation. Those who leave by the deadline will
receive 1,000 euros per adult.
Protesters said they were not looking to
stay in Israel indefinitely, but that due to the unstable nature of life in the
country founded last July, being sent back now would place their lives in
Members of the community and Israeli NGOs say there about 700
South Sudanese in Israel, while the Population, Immigration, and Borders
Authority says the figure is around 3,000. In any case, they make up a small
part of the more than 50,000 African asylum-seekers in Israel, the vast majority
of whom are from Eritrea or Sudan.
According to authority spokeswoman
Sabine Haddad, as of April 1 every time that Interior Ministry immigration
patrols encounter South Sudanese migrants, they will have the option of
arresting them, and sending them either to jail or to South Sudan.
added that since the announcement was made at the end of January, she does not
know of any South Sudanese who has submitted an appeal to the Interior Ministry
asking to stay in Israel.
South Sudan ranks near the bottom in almost
every quality of life indicator and is severely lacking infrastructure, schools,
hospitals and safe drinking water. While the desperate conditions and the
continuing tensions with the north, that is with Sudan, could endanger many of
those returning, because they do not face political persecution from the
government in Juba, they have difficulty making a case that they are still
Orit Marom of the refugee assistance organization
“Asaf” said that the price of the cabinet decision to deport the South Sudanese
“will be possible death, from war or famine, for many of those children who are
The demonstration was met by a few dozen counter-protesters
who came to show support for the deportations.
Speaking of an
“occupation” of Israel by “African infiltrators,” they described the migrants
from South Sudan and across Africa as devastating for the quality of life in
their neighborhoods, most of which were impoverished long before the influx of
African migrants began in recent years.
One of the leaders of the
counterprotest, city councilman and/ Hatikva neighborhood resident and activist
Shlomo Maslawi, said the migrants have brought “a total collapse in the health
and social services of the areas where they live. We are afraid and we no longer
feel at home in our own neighborhoods.”
Natalina Kerba, a mother of three
from South Sudan who has lived in Israel for six years, came from Nahariya to
attend the protest. She spoke for many of the protesters when she asked the
crowd from the stage on Saturday night, “Is there anyone here who would send
their children to a place with no clean water, without enough food, to a place
with no security?”