Israel begins deportation of South Sudanese migrants (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Dana Weiler-Polak and Tomer Zarchin 06/11/12)
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Israel´s Immigration Authority began rounding up African migrants on
Sunday, with eight arrests reported in Eilat and central Israel.
The Jerusalem´s District Court ruled on Thursday that Israel could
deport South Sudanese nationals back to their home county.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that this was a first of many
steps and that a great deal of work is left until his vision of a
migrant-free Israel is fulfilled.
The Ministerial Committee on legislation voted to support the
stiffening of penalties for Israelis found guilty of employing,
harboring or transporting migrants or Palestinians illegally residing
in Israel. According to the bill the maximum penalty will be raised
from the current two-year jail sentence to one of five years. The
bill will also sanction the imposition of a NIS 5 million fine on
persons found assisting migrants. The Knesset will hold a preliminary
vote on the bill this week.
Meanwhile, a protest march uniting Israelis and African migrants took
place in Tel Aviv in protest of the abolition of collective
protection for migrants from South Sudan, as well as, the general
atmosphere in Israel towards migrants. The march started at Levinski
Park in south Tel Aviv and ended at the UN High Commission for
Refugees´ offices in Tel Aviv´s Hashmonaim Street.
The protesters chanted "We are refugees, we are human beings"
and "Sudanese aren´t cancer." They carried signs slogans such as "We
are refugees not enemies" and "We aren´t infiltrators, we are
The court decision on Thursday permitting the deportation of the
South Sudanese nationals rejected an appeal by migrant worker NGOs
against Yishai´s decision to halt Israel´s collective defense of
citizens form the war-torn country.
Once the court ruling was handed down, the Immigration Authority
announced that it will begin enforcing the law as it applied to the
South Sudanese nationals and their employers.
In addition, the authority announced that it will allow the South
Sudanese to leave freely during the next week.
It should be mentioned that the authority would like as many of the
migrants from South Sudan to leave of their own free will and because
of this decided to extend their right to leave freely without legal
The Foreign Ministry recently outlined its position regarding 700
South Sudan nationals currently in Israel; the government says there
are as many as 3,000 here.
The position is based on a report by Ambassador Dan Shaham, who was
sent to South Sudan in April to examine the situation and see if it
was suitable to return the migrants.
The document says returning the South Sudanese nationals in general
would not constitute a breach of international law, which prohibits a
state from expelling foreign nationals if returning them to their
home country presents a clear and immediate danger to their lives.
"The international law does not oblige giving migrants shelter for
socioeconomic reasons, unless the socio-economic situation in the
receiving state is so bad it would endanger the asylum seeker´s life,
or could be described as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," the
Weinstein is expected to say that despite the petitioners´ claims,
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has not issued any
opinion saying forcible expulsion is contrary to the Refugee
Convention and has not stated that it objects to these expulsions.
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman this week called the illegal migration
to Israel a "national plague" and said the state was holding
diplomatic talks to return them to their home country or a third
The Justice Ministry yesterday released a statement saying the
decision to expel the migrants was made on the basis of the Foreign
Ministry´s position paper, which said it was possible to return South
Sudanese migrants to their home country only after it was established
that they are not eligible for asylum.
Reports from the United Nations and human rights groups and
testimonies by activists and citizens warn of severe human rights
violations in South Sudan, continuous warfare and a critical shortage
of food, water and medical care, which are leading to a humanitarian
The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
recently ruled that the return of South Sudanese to their country
must be done on a voluntary basis, due to the country´s instability.
(© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 06/11/12)
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