Eli Yishai Confirms Haaretz Report: More Than 2,000 Sudanese Left Israel 'Voluntarily'

Interior minister confirms that Israel has been repatriating migrants who were held in detention centers, says 'I hope this will continue'; AG Weinstein ruled Monday, however, that no Eritreans in Israeli custody could be deported to '

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Tuesday that more than 2,000 migrants were taken from their detention facility and repatriated "voluntarily" to Sudan, confirming Haaretz's report to that effect.

Yishai said at a press conference in Jerusalem that "more than 2,000 from north Sudan [Sudan] left voluntarily, and I hope this will continue." He added, however, that Israel has stopped the practice of repatriating migrants who are in custody in  Israel following an order by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

On Monday, Weinstein declared that under no circumstances will Eritrean nationals in Israeli custody be sent “to any destination outside Israel’s borders” until he further clarifies the relevant legal issues.

Last month, Haaretz reported that Israel "voluntarily" repatriated at least 1,000 people to Sudan, an enemy country that has vowed to punish any of its citizens who ever set foot in Israel. According to international law, however, it is not voluntary if the migrants are facing the choice to return to their coutry while imprisoned. The repatriation was done secretly, via a third country, over the last few months, without the knowledge of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Yishai also commented on another report by Haaretz from Monday about the case of an Eritrean migrant whose “voluntary departure” from the country went awry.

The man, T.H., had been given a choice by the Israeli authorities of “volunteering” to be sent to Uganda or spending three years in jail. He opted for the former, but upon arrival in Uganda last Thursday he was refused entry, and the Ugandan authorities put him on a plane to Cairo. He was still being detained at Cairo International Airport Monday.

"The Interior Ministry works according to the guidelines, the incident was voluntary, but the guidelines of the attorney general are that it should not happen again," Yishai said.

He added that the policy of his ministry is to "repatriate everyone in the detention centers. According to the orders of the attorney general we cannot repatriate those in jail and so we will work hard to make it possibleI supposed that they will want to leave the detention center once they do not have access to jobs. "

Yishai said, "will convince [Weinstein] that all of them must be deported, by legal means. If we were not limited by laws we would deport them all and so within a legal framework we will deport them whether they volunteer to leave or not. We are determined to complete this mission." 

MK Michael Ben Ari at a protest on Tuesday. The sign reads 'Thy Sudanese shall return to Sudan.'Credit: Alon Ron
Eli YishaiCredit: Emil Salman

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