Israel Cleared to Deport South Sudan Nationals, Court Says

Some 1,000 South Sudanese are believed to be in Israel, part of a larger influx of African migrants who have poured into the country in recent years; Yishai says court ruling is first of many such steps.

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The Jerusalem's District Court ruled on Thursday that Israel could deport South Sudanese nationals back to their county, thus rejecting an appeal by migrant worker NGOs against a decision by Interior Minister Eli Yishai to halt Israel's collective defense of citizens form the war-torn country.

Yishai said in response to the ruling that he "congratulates the court's decision, one allowing the deportation of about 1,500 infiltrators who had arrived from South Sudan," adding he "hopes this is the first step in a series of measures allowing us to deport [migrants] from Eritrea and North Sudan.

Some 1,000 South Sudanese are believed to be in Israel, part of a larger influx of African migrants who have poured into the country in recent years. Some are refugees, while others are seeking employment.

Major violence between Sudan and South Sudan has flared recently, pushing the region to the edge of all-out war, according to news reports.

Speaking in response to the court's ruling, Khaled, a South Sudanese national who has been residing in Israel with two of his children since 2007, said: "I really don't know what to do."

"It's sending people and families to a dangerous place. I'm afraid to go back there with the kids, will they have a future in such place?" he added, saying that he didn't think he would to hide from authorities. "It isn't practical, I have two underage kids, I don't want to do that to them."

The NGOs who had submitted the court appeal also responded to the decision, saying they "regret the ruling" and "fear for the safety and wellbeing of the deportees, especially the children due to be send to a dangerous place."

The Jerusalem court's decision came after, late last month, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein told the court that there is no reason to prevent the deportation of South Sudanese citizens to their country of origin, as South Sudan is safe enough for them to return home.

Weinstein based the remarks on a foreign ministry report on the economic and security conditions in South Sudan, and on the possibility of deporting migrants to the country.

According to Weinstein's remarks, the situation in South Sudan does not provide grounds to fear for the lives and physical safety of migrants who are returned to the country.

The attorney general also said that asylum applications of South Sudanese citizens will be examined individually, based on the Refugee Convention.

Weinstein's announcements came amid mounting tensions over the issue of African migrants in Israel.

Last week an anti-migrant protest turned violent, with some 1,000 protesters in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood calling for the ousting of African asylum seekers from Israel. Demonstrators attacked African passersby while others lit garbage cans on fire and smashed car windows.

A further anti-migrant rally is planned in south Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

At last weeks demonstration, the crowd cried "The people want the Sudanese deported" and "Infiltrators get out of our home," and a number of MKs addressed the crowd. Likud MK Miri Regev told protesters that "the Sudanese are a cancer in our body." Regev apologized over the remarks on Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the actions of demonstrators, and MKs who were present at the rally, and promised that his government would address the issue of African migrants in Israel.

South Sudanese refugees in Tel Aviv.Credit: Nir Kafri

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