State Attorney: Israel Hasn't Moved to Arrest Sudanese Citizens, Despite Yishai's Comments

Interior Minister announced that all Sudanese citizens in Israel would be arrested as of this October 15, State Attorney's reply to a petition against this declaration states that no such instructions were ever given.

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

The State Attorney submitted today its response to a petition made by human rights organizations against the Interior Ministry's move to arrest all Sudanese citizens in Israel. According to the response, Interior Minister Eli Yishai's statements – were in fact empty words, and that no decision was ever taken.

Following Yishai's announcements, seven human rights organizations submitted a petition demanding a cancellation of the minister's decision. The organizations also requested to extend the visas of the Sudanese citizens in Israel that enjoy collective protection.

"The minister did not order the director of the Population, Immigration and Border Crossing Authority, or any other administration official to begin to forcibly expel Sudanese migrants in Israel or place Sudanese citizens under custody as of October 15th, 2012, and therefore the Authority did not take any such action, and has no intention of doing so until an explicit order is issued," the State Attorney's response read. Since, in direct contrast to Yishai's statement, no such decision was ever reached, the State requested the petition be rejected.

Two months ago, Yishai published a press release declaring that he directed the Population, Immigration and Border Crossing Authority to take action that would see Sudanese migrants imprisoned for the first time. The minister noted that migrants who would leave Israel until mid-October, would receive assistance from his ministry, and those who wouldn't, would be imprisoned and then expelled. "This is another step from words to actions as far as dealing with the migrant problem in Israel," Yishai declared, "whoever wants to keep on talking and be a future witness for a committee investigating the destruction of Israel – can keep on talking, whoever wants to take action – should do so. I choose action.”

The State Attorney wrote in its response that "at this time there are discussions and debates concerning the issues of the petition, issues that demands comprehensive institutional thinking, as well as consultations of senior officials in several government ministries," but clarified that the process is ongoing. "At the present time, the Population, Immigration and Border Crossing Authority has not received any operational order concerning the arrest of Sudanese citizens.”

The petition, submitted by The Association of Civil Rights in Israel, The Clinic for Migrant Rights at the Academic Center of Law and Business, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, ASSAF - Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, African Refugee Development Center and Kav LaOved – the Worker's Hotline, argued that "the decision to imprison thousands of asylum seekers for an unspecified amount of time, including victims of human trafficking and torture, together with their children, often newborns, in giant cages and extreme desert conditions, is an hysterical and barbaric decision." The petition included an appendix harshly criticizing the move – by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Sudan is defined by Israel as an enemy state, and therefore, citizens cannot be expelled back to their native country. Eritrea, in spite of having diplomatic relations with Israel, views its citizens in Israel as army deserters, and those returning are expected to receive severe prison terms, and there is even fear for their lives.

In an interview with Israel Radio, four months ago, Harel Locker, Director General of the Prime Minister's Office said that "most of the 62,000 migrants are from Sudan and Eritrea, and the migrants cannot be expelled to those two countries, since that would put their lives in peril, and Israel has signed international covenants concerning these matters. There are two conditions for the expelling of illegal migrants. The first: that the country would be willing to accept them, and the second, that their lives won't be endangered by the move. Concerning these two states we simply cannot land there with airplanes and compromise their sovereignty. Sudan is also an enemy state we need a country that would agree to accept them, and that country must also guarantee their safety.”

Apart from the mutual definition as enemy countries, Sudanese law prohibits its citizens from entering Israel. Sudanese passports include a statement that the holder may enter any country except Israel. Furthermore, senior officials in the Sudanese government have clarified that they would take severe legal action against all Sudanese citizens living in Israel.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai visits the Saharonim prison facility.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz

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