Refugees from Ivory Coast gathered in Tel Aviv Sunday morning to protest their planned deportation to the war torn African country by the end of May.More than 100 refugees – a majority of whom live in south Tel Aviv near the central bus station – held signs with phrases such as “Deportation equals death,” and marched in the courtyard outside of the Marc Rich Israel Cinematheque.The Population and Immigration Authority, which had granted the refugees protection in Israel, has determined that the country, plagued by violence since a civil war erupted in 2002, is now safe enough for them to return. The authority had initially ordered that the refugees return to their homeland by the end of January or face deportation, but refugees filed a petition with the court seeking an extension of their protection in Israel.A Jerusalem judge approved the authority’s decision earlier this month and ordered the refugees’ repatriation by May 31. The refugees plan to file a petition with the Supreme Court on Monday or Tuesday, their attorney said.Strife in the country has largely eased since former president Laurent Gbago was captured by rivals in April 2011 and transferred to the International Criminal Court where he faces trial for war crimes.There are almost 2,000 Ivory Coast refugees who live in Israel, and those who gathered at the protest Sunday said they want to return home but first want to ensure the country is safe and also need additional time to wrap up their lives in Israel.“We need them to consider that we have family and that the situation in our country is still very bad,” said Toussaint Bouda, a refugee who has lived in Israel since 2003. Attorney Tal Proshan said 18 of the refugees were arrested and set for deportation earlier this year, but that he was able to secure their release when the petitions were filed with the courts.Many of the refugees who live in Israel have difficulty finding employment because their visas declare they are not allowed to work. The Supreme Court provided the refugees from Ivory Coast and other African nations a legal loophole granting employers freedom from prosecution for hiring them, but Proshan said the refugees often have difficulty assuring employers that hiring them is legal.“These people want to go back and rebuild their lives, but they want to wait until it’s totally safe,” Proshan said.