´S. Sudanese delegation shocked by deportation methods´ (JERUSALEM POST) By BEN HARTMAN 06/15/12)
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The South Sudanese delegation to Israel wants its countrymen to
return home, but is shocked and disturbed by how Israel is carrying
out the deportation of the community of 700-1,500 people, an Israeli
activist who took part in a meeting with the delegation said Thursday.
Rabbis for Human Rights co-founder Arik Ascherman, who attended a
meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday between the delegation and members
of the South Sudanese community in Israel, said the officials from
Juba “are on one hand kind of taking this page from the Zionist
movement. They very much want everyone back there to help rebuild the
country, but they were pretty shocked and disturbed to hear about how
[South Sudanese] people were treated – the arrests, the people being
given so little time to get their lives in order.”
Ascherman said he heard from officials during the meeting that “we
are a country that has such good relations with Israel and these
types of things are not helpful in terms of the Israel-South Sudan
The activist said the South Sudanese delegation, which arrived in
Israel on Wednesday, includes two officials from the foreign
ministry, one from South Sudan’s ministry of humanitarian affairs, a
deputy police commander, and a diplomat who had previously served as
the South Sudanese ambassador to Turkey.
The meeting in which Ascherman took part was shortly before one that
the delegation held with representatives from the Foreign Ministry.
On Thursday, they met with representatives of the Interior Ministry,
including Interior Minister Eli Yishai, and on Friday, the delegation
is scheduled to take part in a town-hall meeting with members of the
community in Tel Aviv. Finally, they plan to head south on Saturday
to meet with South Sudanese living in Eilat.
Sunday Dieng, a South Sudanese citizen living in Tel Aviv, attended
the meeting on Wednesday and spoke of a somewhat different tone. “The
officials told us that if the Israeli government doesn’t want you,
you should go back,” he said.
Dieng said the officials did not focus much on how the deportations
were carried out, saying “they didn’t seem to put much concentration
on how people were treated by Israel; they are here to make it clear
that the [South Sudanese] government supports returning the people
The Interior Ministry did not return multiple requests for comment on
The delegation’s visit comes following the launching on Sunday
of “Operation Going Back Home,” during which immigration authorities
have arrested around 300 migrants while another 300 have signed
papers agreeing to leave willfully.
Nearly all are from South Sudan, according to immigration officials,
who have confirmed that at least one charter flight will leave Israel
on Sunday to take South Sudanese back to their country.
A foreign ministry official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that
the delegation is in Israel purely on a bureaucratic level and
working in cooperation with Israel to oversee the repatriation of
South Sudanese citizens.
When asked if the delegation spoke about how the deportations would
affect the country’s relations with Israel, the official said that he
hadn’t heard anything negative in that regard, but added that Israel
has suffered from negative publicity in the world as a result of the
images of the arrests, and the violence and inflammatory language
surrounding the migrant issue recently.
Galia Sabar, the chair of African Studies section in the Department
of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University, said
Thursday that the deportations could potentially tarnish Israel’s
relations with South Sudan.
Sabar mentioned how, over the years, Israel has invested vast sums of
money and expertise in helping to develop South Sudan, and that
deportations “will make us no longer the good guys.”
“We have a phenomenal vested interest in South Sudan, a Christian
country in the heart of an area of great importance to us,” he said,
adding that the deportations and how they’ve been carried out “harm
our interests in this part of the world.”
“A person doesn’t go from being an asylum-seeker to a migrant worker
over the course of a week,” Sabar added. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
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