South Sudan issues complaint over deportations

Interior minister also announces Ivorians have 2 weeks to leave voluntarily before forced deportation.

South Sudanese disembark in Juba after TA flight 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Adriane Ohanesian)
South Sudanese disembark in Juba after TA flight 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Adriane Ohanesian)
The South Sudanese government issued a formal complaint to the Foreign Ministry this week, asking Israel not to refer to the repatriation of their citizens as “deportations” and to refrain from photographing their expulsion from the country, an official at the ministry confirmed on Thursday.
The official said Juba requested that such steps be taken “in order to preserve the dignity of the South Sudanese” going through deportation, adding that the complaint was not about the repatriation itself.
The official said that the complaint was based on “the process rather than the substance of the deportations,” and said that it is in keeping with statements by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has stressed the need for the deportations to be carried out with sensitivity.
The first round of deportations took place on June 17, when 123 South Sudanese were deported on a midnight flight to Juba. The deportations were highly publicized and photographed, with dozens of cameramen stationed at Ben-Gurion Airport. Interior Minister Eli Yishai stood in front of the South Sudanese families in the departure hall while the South Sudanese were being processed and gave a press conference where he vowed to work to rid Israel of all of the more than 65,000 illegal African migrants living in the country. He also posed for pictures arm in arm with South Sudanese deportees.
On Thursday, Yishai announced that migrants from the Ivory Coast will have two weeks to leave Israel voluntarily or be deported.
“Infiltrators, starting now, will be thrown directly into jail,” he said, adding that “the Eritrean and Sudanese migrants will all eventually be thrown out of the country.
“You have two weeks to leave. Whoever does so will be eligible for a subsidy. Whoever does not will be thrown out.”
The interior minister also repeated a statement he has made in the past that the situation in Eritrea, a dictatorship where the UN says human rights abuses are widespread, is safer than in the western Negev town of Sderot, which is often the target of Gazan rocket fire.
Yishai added that Israeli officials are in contact with counterparts in Sudan and Eritrea to organize the deportation of migrants.
The number of Ivorians in Israel is estimated to be between a few hundred and 2,000.
The Interior Ministry has said that any migrant who leaves of his or her own accord will receive $500 per adult and $100 per child. Those who do not will be incarcerated and deported.
During the deportation of South Sudanese earlier this month, the ministry offered the adults $1,300 each and $500 per child as compensation for leaving voluntarily. The ministry spokesman clarified that the discrepancy between the two offers was unimportant and that it was not obligated to offer any money at all.
“This is an important step to returning the migrants to their home countries,” Yishai said. “It also will help return a feeling of security to [Israeli] residents.”
Netanyahu met visiting Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on June 18, and they agreed on a plan to repatriate Ivorians who arrived in Israel without permission.
Until the middle of last year it was impossible to deport Ivorians because the country was in the throes of civil violence; that situation has changed since Ouattara came to power in April.
Now, according to diplomatic officials, Ouattara’s government is interested in its citizens returning from various locations around the world because it will signal that stability has returned to the country.
Israel arrested Ivorians in the past, but not on scale that arrests of South Sudanese have been carried out recently.
The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday rejected a petition against the deportation of Ivorians.
Also this week, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority announced that while it had deported 280 South Sudanese so far this month, 800 African migrants had crossed into Israel illegally from Egypt. PIBA added that because the “Infiltrators Law” went into effect earlier this month, all 800 have been jailed.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.