127 South Sudanese migrants leave Israel; 60,000 remain (YNetNews.Com -Yedioth Internet) Omri Efraim Published: 06.18.12, 01:55)
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African migrants board charter flight to capital Juba after receiving
$1,300 each; Immigration Authority head says they did so voluntarily,
but aid groups claim their only other choice was imprisonment
A plane carrying 123 illegal immigrants from South Sudan departed
from Tel Aviv´s Ben Gurion International Airport early Monday morning
en route to the new African country´s capital Juba, but some 60,000
African migrants - most of whom cannot be deported – remain in Israel.
Another four South Sudanese migrants boarded commercial flights back
to their country because the charter flight, which departed at around
1:30 am, was full. Each adult received $1,300, while children were
given $500 each.
"All those who boarded the flight back to Sudan did so voluntarily,"
Amnon Ben-Ami, the director of the Population and Immigration
Authority told Ynet, adding that over the past week more than 500
South Sudanese have asked to return home "in the framework of this
However, aid groups claim the migrants´ only other choice was to be
detained and then expelled. The organizations said the migrants were
not given the opportunity to apply for refugee status.
Dozens of illegal migrants from African nations were detained
nationwide over the past week after the Jerusalem Administrative
Court granted the State´s request to suspend the "collective
protection" status granted to south Sudanese migrants in Israel,
effectively sanctioning the deportation of 1,500 migrants.
About 300 South Sudanese who were detained as part of the operation
are being held in facilities across the country. Ben-Ami said they
would soon be deported as well. The next flight carrying Sudanese
migrants back to their country will leave next Monday, he said.
About 50,000 of the migrants who remain in Israel are from Sudan and
Eritrea. Israel cannot deport them due to various diplomatic
obligations and because it has been a signatory of the 1951
International Refugee Convention since 1954.
Ben-Ami said the Immigration Authority will continue working to
deport some 4,000 illegal African migrants from the Ivory Coast
(2,000), South Sudan (1,500) and other African countries.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who initiated the deportation plan, met
the migrants at the airport. "The big story here is Suan and Eritrea.
I hope the legal obstacles that prevent the deportation of migrants
from these countries will be removed," he said.
Rami Godovitch, a social activist who helps Africans seeking refugee
status, said Yishai is well-aware that sending Eritreans and former
Darfur residents back to their home countries would mean a "death
Gabriel Takala, a 31-year-old Eritrean asylum-seeker who illegally
entered Israel some five years ago and currently lives in Ramat Gan,
said he fears Yishai´s deportation plan. "We left Eritrea due to
severe political problems. Those who left will be killed or jailed
for life if they are forced to return," he said.
"If we have no choice, we´ll prefer to remain in prison in Israel
rather than be sent back to Eritrea. We ask that Israel protect us."
Knesset Member Danny Danon (Likud), who heads the Knesset lobby which
seeks to deal with the issue of illegal immigration, said he was
discussing with officials in South Sudan the possibility that the new
African country would absorb thousands of illegal migrants Israel
wants to deport.
"This would change the situation in Israel," he said.
Takala does not believe in Danon´s plan: "No other country will agree
to accept us." (Copyright 2012 © Yedioth Internet 06/18/12)
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