Sudanese migrants preparing to fly back to their home country
Four-year-old South Sudanese girl Nyot Koang Gai carries a South Sudanese flag as she walks with her mother upon departure from Israel, June 17, 2012. Photo by Reuters / Baz Ratner
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Ofer Vaknin
Eli Yishai at Ben Gurion International Airport just hours before South Sudanese migrants fly back to their home country. Photo by Ofer Vaknin

Over one hundred African migrants from South Sudan left Israel for their home country early Monday morning, as a part of larger operation to expel migrants from Israel.

The migrants, among them 43 children, voluntarily chose to fly to Juba, the capital of the newly independent state. Upon undergoing a process of registration and identification at Ben Gurion International Airport, the migrants underwent immunization administered by the Health Ministry. Each adult received a sum of $1,300 while each child received $500.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who arrived at the terminal to speak with the migrants before their departure, said he did not “belittle the pain of the families returning home,” but added that between Sudan’s interest and that of Israel, Yishai chooses the latter.

“I hope that citizens of North Sudan and Eritrea will return to their homes and countries – this will inevitably happen. We need to guard our home, with all the sensitivity and pain that that entails.”

Peter Mikado, one of the South Sudanese at the terminal who has been living in Israel since 2007, stood alongside Yishai and thanked him. “I left my home in South Sudan because of the war in 1986. Today I am happy to say that I am returning. There are some among us who are sad, but we are leaving here for a new path,” Mikado said.

Another South Sudanese migrant, who accompanied his wife and four children to the flight, said he has no complaints for Yishai. “It is not Eli Yishai that is responsible. There are people in Israel that do not like that we are here. But I am not angry; they told me to go home, so I will go to my country.”

Gideon Cohen, the head of a unit for promoting voluntary departure of migrant workers, said that more than 500 applications were filed over the past week by South Sudanese who wish to return to their home country. Cohen also stated that members of other migrant communities, including Nigerians and Ghanaians, filed similar applications. According to him, the next flight to South Sudan is set for next Monday.