Israel Announces South Sudan Asylum-seekers Have Until March to Leave Country

After South Sudanese independence, Population Authority said asylum-seekers could safely return home; meanwhile, Petah Tikva District Court stays deportation order on 130 Ivory Coast families.

One thousand asylum-seekers from South Sudan are losing their collective protection, and those who do not leave by the end of March will be deported, the Population and Immigration Authority announced on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Petah Tikva District Court stayed a deportation order against 130 families from the Ivory Coast. A month ago, the authority announced that they would be deported, too.

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Alon Ron

The Ivorians were given a month to leave voluntarily, after the Israeli authorities said that they could return home safely because the civil war there had ended.

Following South Sudan's declaration of independence in July, the Population Authority decided that these citizens could safely return home, too.

They had received collective protection prior to the declaration of independence because Sudan considers Israel an enemy country.

The authority said it would give every departing South Sudanese citizen a $1,300 grant to ease his or her return home.

Critics called the move premature, inappropriate and dangerous.

"South Sudanese citizens must have full access to determination of refugee status on a case-by-case basis if they so desire," said Sharon Harel, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel.

"If such access is not made possible, it will contravene the refugee convention and Israel's commitment to it," Harel added.

"People have to be given time to get organized, to know where they are going |And if they have a place to live and a job. They can't uproot their lives in Israel and ensure a new life in South Sudan within two months," said Sunday Ding, an asylum-seeker from South Sudan who has been in Israel since 2006 and is now a student at Tel Aviv University.

"Unfortunately we still hear ... that the situation in South Sudan is not good and people are being murdered, so to force them to go back is regrettable," said Hamed, another asylum-seeker.

Some of the Ivorians who appealed to the court have families.

In some cases their status as asylum-seekers is under review, or they have medical problems or humanitarian reasons for their request to stay in Israel.

The appeal states that the Interior Ministry's decision to send the Ivorians home is "premature, contrary to the United Nations' position, and places their lives in danger."

The Population and Immigration Authority says there are approximately 2,000 Ivorians in Israel; other estimates state that there are no more than 500.

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