African migrant in south Tel Aviv 370.
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
A combination of the desire to return home and the implementation of the
amendment to the 1954 “infiltrators law” has lead several hundred asylum-
seekers, possibly as many as a 1,000, to leave Israel for Sudan in the past six
or seven months, according to assessments by an official with the UN in
A week and a half ago, The Jerusalem Post quoted a Population,
Immigration, and Borders Authority spokesman as saying that several hundred
Sudanese had agreed to be repatriated in recent months, as well as a small
number of Eritreans. The Post also reported that a group of around 25 Eritreans
had been offered the chance to leave Israel for Uganda, and later found
themselves taken to the Eritrean embassy in Ramat Gan, where they learned that
their offer involved returning to Eritrea, not Uganda.
The UN said it
knew of no coordination with Ugandan authorities on the plan, which appears to
have now been scuttled.
The UN official also stated that around 400 Sudanese agreed to return to Sudan after they were visited by Interior Ministry officials in detention centers in the South and advised that they can stay in prison or return to Sudan – an offer that the UN does not consider voluntary return.
However, the UN official did say they estimate that the majority of
those who have returned voluntarily to Sudan were not being held in detention
centers, and decided to go home via a third country for a number of reasons.
These reasons include that they had lived in Israel for several years; had saved
money; wanted to marry and have children; or wanted to be reunited with their
Earlier this week Interior Minister Eli Yishai presented
figures saying that around 1,000 Africans had voluntary returned home, a number
the UN says they estimate to be rounded up. Yishai’s statement came days after
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said at the Knesset that dozens of
African “infiltrators” are returning home to their countries willingly every
Aharonovitch’s statement came in response to a question posed by
Hadash MK Dov Henin, relating to reports of an Eritrean man beaten in south Tel
Aviv and of police YASSAM officers raiding migrant bars.
said he would look into these cases, adding that “there is no policy [in Israel]
of pursuing or harassing infiltrators.”