Yishai: We'll work to deport of all illegal Africans

Yishai stresses the importance of the border fence and detention facility being built in Israel’s south.

Sudanese detained after crossing southern border 311 (R) (photo credit: Yonathan Weitzman / Reuters)
Sudanese detained after crossing southern border 311 (R)
(photo credit: Yonathan Weitzman / Reuters)
Israel will work to rid the country of all illegal African migrants and is willing to pay countries that agree to absorb them, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Sunday.
Speaking at the 5th Ramle Conference, Yishai stressed the importance of the border fence and detention facility being built in Israel’s south, adding that the intention was not only to prevent more migrants from entering Israel, but “to remove those 58,000 infiltrators who are already here. Look what is happening in Eilat, Arad – and it’s coming to Ashdod and Netanya. We all know what’s happening in Tel Aviv.”
At the conference, sponsored by the right-wing organization Komemiyut, Yishai also said he expected that a wave of migrants would seek to enter in the coming months before work on the fence is complete. He proposed that Israel offer to pay a third-party country to take in Sudanese and Eritrean citizens who are deported, calling the payment a “release stipend.”
On January 31, the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) said that following the establishment of South Sudan as an independent country last summer, citizens of that country who are in Israel as of April 1 will no longer be considered refugees and will face forced deportation.
On March 29, after receiving a petition from several NGOs arguing that South Sudanese citizens who returned to their country would be in grave danger, the Jerusalem District Court issued an injunction barring their deportation until April 15.
On the same day as the court decision, the Foreign Ministry sent a letter to PIBA asking it to consider a delay in the deportations so the ministry could examine the situation in South Sudan. In light of this request, the Jerusalem District Court issued a ruling on April 4 that the deportations could not begin until at least May 6.
The inability of South Sudanese citizens to work in Israel is their central problem as they await the court ruling on whether to uphold the Interior Ministry decision to deport them, according to activists and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Israel.
William Tall, the UNHCR representative in Israel, said Monday that he had contacted the Interior Ministry in order to request that in the meantime it allow South Sudanese to work legally, saying that otherwise the issue of a voluntary return would be void.
Tall added that while around 50 or 60 South Sudanese have voluntarily returned in recent months for a multitude of reasons, such as wanting to reunite with their families, “someone who is living in a park with no work visa or is in a detention facility and decides to return isn’t doing so voluntarily.”
In the meantime, Tall said that as long as the Interior Ministry does not allow the South Sudanese to work legally, the UNHCR will not interview any who are looking to return voluntarily.
Orit Marom, of the African refugee aid organization Asaf, said visas were the most important issue facing the South Sudanese community at the moment, in that these people will remain in limbo with no way to support themselves.
Marom added that if the situation continues for much longer, many would agree to return to their country voluntarily because otherwise they would have no way to provide for themselves.