Friday, June 29, 2012

South Sudan Issues Complaint Over Deportations From Israel

South Sudan issues complaint over deportations

Jerusalem Post

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

The South Sudanese government issued a formal complaint to the Foreign Ministry this week, asking Israel to not 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 that Juba requested 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 the Prime Minister, who has stressed the need for the deportations to be carried out with sensitivity.

The first round of deportations took place on June 17th and saw 123 South Sudanese deported from Israel on a midnight flight to Juba. The deportations were very highly-publicized and photographed, with dozens of cameramen on scene at Ben-Gurion International 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 by force.

“Infiltrators, starting now, will be thrown directly into jail”, Yishai said, adding that he insists 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 the situation in the western Negev town of Sderot, which is often the target of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

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 free will receive $500 per adult and $100 per child. Those who do not do so will be incarcerated and deported.

During the deportation of South Sudanese earlier this month, the Interior Ministry offered the $1,300 as compensation for leaving voluntarily. The ministry spokesman clarified that the discrepancy between the two offers was unimportant and that they were not obligated to offer any sum 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."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met visiting Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara earlier this month, agreeing on a plan to repatriate Ivory Coast nationals who arrived in Israel without permission.

While up 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 has carried out arrests of Ivorians in the past, but not in the large scale sense that arrests of South Sudanese have been carried out recently.

A petition against the deportation of Ivorians was overruled earlier this month.

Also this week, PIBA announced that while they have so far deported 280 South Sudanese this month, a further 800 African migrants have crossed into Israel illegally across the

Egyptian border. PIBA added that because the ‘infiltrators law’ went into effect earlier this month, all 800 have been jailed.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report

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