Immigration Police Arrest Dozens of African Migrants in Eilat, Central Israel

Immigration Authority begins rounding up African migrants for deportation; Knesset committee discusses new plan regarding Israel's handling of asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers.

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Israel's immigration police arrested on Monday dozens of African migrants, mostly South Sudanese nationals, in Eilat and central Israel.

The Interior Ministry's Oz Immigration Police raided a neighborhood in Eilat on Monday morning, arresting dozens of South Sudanese migrants in order to deport them back to their country of origin.

Around 5:00 A.M., a large contingent of immigration police arrived at a neighborhood that is home to many African migrants. The police entered homes, demanding that their inhabitants pack their belongings and withdraw all of their money from the bank ahead of their deportation.

Moreover, several arrests were also made in central Israel. The Immigration Authority reported that 55 African migrants were arrested on Monday, of them 45 were South Sudanese nationals.

An activist from Assaf, an NGO that aides African migrants, said Israeli police treated the migrants as criminals.

"It is unclear why the police come at 5 A.M. and frighten families with small children," Orit Rubin said. "These are people who committed no crime and acted in legitimate ways, but are being treated like lowly criminals."

Meanwhile on Monday, the Knesset Interior Committee held a discussion about the recent violence against migrants in south Tel Aviv, and a plan was presented for how Israel should deal with asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided to support a bill that aims to crack down on Israelis who employ or aid migrants and Palestinians who are in Israel illegally.

Also Sunday, Israel's Immigration Authority began rounding up African migrants, with eight arrests of South Sudanese migrants in Eilat and central Israel.

Last week, a Jerusalem court ruled that Israel could deport South Sudanese nationals back to their country, thus rejecting an appeal by migrant worker NGOs against a decision by Interior Minister Eli Yishai to halt Israel's collective protection of citizens from the war-torn country.

Yishai said in response to the ruling that he "welcomes the court's decision, which allows for the deportation of about 1,500 infiltrators 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.

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 well-being of the deportees, especially the children due to be sent to a dangerous place."

African migrants who were arrested in Eilat, June 11, 2012.Credit: The Immigration Authority
Oz Immigration police arresting African migrants in Tel Aviv, June 11, 2012.Credit: Oren Ziv

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