Foreign Ministry: Deportation of S. Sudanese legal

Leaked ministry document states that deportation would be legal according to international law.

South Sudanese in Tel Aviv 390 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
South Sudanese in Tel Aviv 390
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Foreign Ministry believes it is legal to return South Sudanese migrants in Israel to their homeland, according to an internal ministry document leaked to Haaretz this week.
An official at the ministry told The Jerusalem Post that the document had been put together recently, but added that it only related to whether or not the migrants could be returned according to international law, not whether or not they should be returned.
The official added that the document was “absolutely not a recommendation that they should or should not be returned.”
Nonetheless, according to Haaretz, the document will be part of the ministry’s recommendation on whether Israel can end group protection for South Sudanese in Israel.
“The Foreign Ministry thinks there is no obligation in international law to grant asylum for socioeconomic reasons, but rather if the financial and social situation in the country is so bad that it causes the asylum-seekers to be risking their lives or can be classified as cruel, inhuman or degrading,” Haaretz quoted the document as reading.
According to the report, the document also calls on the government to examine each asylum-seeker’s personal claim to see if they qualify for refugee status.
The South Sudanese community of around 1,000 (2,000 according to Interior Ministry figures) was to face forced deportation on April 1, in keeping with a government decision that the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) announced on January 31. PIBA had said that following the establishment of South Sudan as an independent country last July, these migrants would no longer be considered refugees come April 1 and should prepare for departure.
Three days before the deportations were to begin, the Jerusalem District Court issued an injunction barring the deportations until April 15. The decision came after the Foreign Ministry contacted PIBA, asking that it consider delaying the deportations to give the ministry time to examine the situation on the ground in South Sudan.
Orit Marom of ASSAF, the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, said Tuesday that her organization and others were calling on the Interior Ministry to wait and interview each South Sudanese person individually, rather than sending them back without fully examining their requests for asylum.
She added that a ministry-organized flight of South Sudanese was heading back on Sunday, consisting of families who she said were not allowed to work in Israel and were returning willfully “because they haven’t been able to pay rent and are the desperate of the desperate.”
“We are calling on the government to wait and see what develops in South Sudan, which at [any moment] could be in the middle of a total war,” she said.