Yishai: Activists welcome to adopt infiltrators

Interior Minister quips activists could adopt S. Sudanese infiltrators; Ministry would consider allowing adopted refugees to stay.

Migrants at Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park 390 (photo credit: Tamir Kalifa)
Migrants at Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park 390
(photo credit: Tamir Kalifa)
Those looking to prevent the deportation of South Sudanese citizens at the end of the month are welcome to volunteer to be foster families for them, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Wednesday.
“They are welcome to serve as foster families for them. During my time as interior minister I have done and will continue to do what I can to preserve Israel as a Jewish country,” Yishai said.
The Shas minister highlighted his efforts to complete the Sinai border fence to stop the entry of infiltrators via Egypt and his work to ensure funding for a detention facility in the Negev that will hold thousands of illegal migrants from Africa.
Yishai said he would continue to work toward “the deportation of infiltrators to their home countries.”
A spokesman for Yishai said that while the minister made the comment sarcastically, if an Israeli family did offer to serve as a foster family, the ministry would consider allowing the adopted South Sudanese to stay in the country.
On Tuesday, 400 artists, authors and academics signed a letter sent to the prime minister, in which they said, “We are appealing to the sensitivity and moral and diplomatic responsibility of the leaders of the State of Israel and asking you not to deport 700 natives of South Sudan, which would subject them to war and hunger and disease.”
Returning them to South Sudan would endanger their lives, the signatories wrote.
The letter was signed by authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, musician Yehudit Ravitz and actor Moshe Ivgi, among others.
On Sunday, a collection of Israeli NGOs wrote a letter to Yishai, in which they called on the minister to cancel a decision made in late January to deport all South Sudanese in Israel to South Sudan after April 1.
The ministry said last month that the decision to deport South Sudanese citizens was made due to the foundation of South Sudan as an independent country last July.
Until April 1, South Sudanese in Israel are eligible to receive 1,000 euros in cash per person to voluntarily return home. After that date, the stipend will no longer be available and South Sudanese face forced deportation. Those employing or sheltering them could be subject to legal repercussions, the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority said last month.
The NGOs mentioned in their letter a report compiled last month by Valerie Amos, emergency relief coordinator at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in which, after a trip to South Sudan, she said, “The situation in the country is extremely precarious, and the risk of a dangerous decline is very real.”
The letter, penned by the groups ASSAF – The Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and Amnesty International Israel, among others, called on Yishai to cancel the deportations, saying that returning to South Sudan at this time could seriously endanger the lives of those returning.
The organizations called on Israel to follow the example of other Western countries to continue group protection for South Sudanese even though the country is now independent. Many of the South Sudanese who face deportation are not sure if they qualify for South Sudanese citizenship, as the country did not exist when they fled Sudan for Israel, the NGOs said.
The organizations called on Israel to allow South Sudanese to stay in the country, at least until their country becomes more stable, or at least until they can establish their right to citizenship there.
On Saturday evening, supporters plan to hold a protest outside the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, where they will call on the government to cancel the deportations.