Sudanese authorities have been interrogating citizens who spent time in Israel and have returned to their country secretly via Jordan, Sudanese news organization Alrakoba has reported.
Israel and Sudan do not have diplomatic relations, meaning that Israel cannot return citizens directly to Sudan, which has vowed to punish citizens who have set foot on Israeli soil. Sudanese passports even state that the bearer is entitled to enter all countries except for Israel.
Israel earlier this year admitted that it has repatriated about some 2,100 migrants to Sudan via a third country but refused to disclose the name of that country. The repatriation was done secretly, over the last few months, without the knowledge of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
So as not to endanger the returnees, the population and Immigration Authority had them sign “consensual repatriation” forms, blurred their tracks, saw to providing them new passports if necessary and returned them via a third country. Now, however, it appears that Sudan knows which country served as a way-station.
According to a report on Alrakoba, Sudanese security authorities are conducting an inquiry against eight people who were expelled from Israeli territory and arrived at the Khartoum airport on a special flight on the Jordanian airline. The site added that the Sudanese citizens returned thanks to local authorities’ cooperation with the Jordanian government and notes that 89 more Sudanese have recently returned to their country after spending time in prison for illegal immigration and being deported from Israel.
The report noted that knowledgeable sources said Israel and Amman have reached understandings about implementing the repatriation to Sudan, due to the absence of a Sudanese embassy in Israel. Amman has therefore issued the necessary documents for the Sudanese citizens' deportation to Khartoum.
According to Nadav Franckovich, who maintains contact with the Sudanese community in Israel, the site that published the report is quite popular. “It’s a site that many people in Sudan and refugees outside the country read. It is relatively critical and it is constantly updated,” he said.
The report on the site concurs with testimonies that human rights organizations have received from Sudanese citizens who returned home via a third country and said they were questioned at the airport in Khartoum.
Sudanese community members in Israel have said that the interrogations aim mainly to find out who has acted or spoken against the regime.
A Sudanese citizen who lives in Tel Aviv said on Wednesday that a friend of hers who recently returned home told her she was interrogated at the airport in Khartoum about the time she spent in Israel. According to the woman, her friend said the authorities detained her overnight at the airport and demanded details from her about other Sudanese citizens residing in Israel. The authorities then confiscated her belongings and fined her before releasing her.
Others in the Sudanese community say some of their peers have vanished after returning home and no one knows what has happened to them.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has previously warned against the repatriation of Sudanese citizens, out of concern for their safety. The agency has said that consensual repatriation would be possible only if it is carried out discreetly and if the migrants’ decide to return of their own free will and not under pressure or threat of deportation.
According to Population and Immigration Authority data, there are currently about 14,000 migrants from Sudan in Israel.
Israel last week confirmed it had reached an agreement with an unnamed African country that is prepared to absorb migrants and is in advanced talks with another four African countries intended to serve as way stations for Sudanese migrants.