No Work, No Money, No Hope: Deportees Bemoan Life Back in South Sudan

Last year, Israel repatriated hundreds of migrants despite warnings from humanitarian groups that their lives would be put in danger.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

A little over a year ago, Israel deported some 1,000 South Sudanese nationals back to their homeland. At the time Israel declared that their lives were no longer in danger and put them on flights to Juba, the capital of the new country. A year after their return, many of the deportees are caught in a day-to-day struggle for survival. Most of them have no work or home, their access to food and water is restricted, and the sanitation level and health services are inferior.

Human rights groups in Israel have gathered testimonies on at least 22 deportees who have died since returning to Sudan, many of them children who contracted malaria and typhoid fever there.

"First of all, people who have returned from Israel have no work and many of them have nowhere to live," Franco, 38, tells Haaretz in a phone call from Juba.

"I myself live in my brother's house, he says. When we left Israel, the Interior Ministry told us it has an agreement with the government [of South Sudan] to give us some land to settle on. That never happened. The work situation is very bad. I've been in South Sudan a year and a month without any work, and I'm not the only one. Many people [have no work]. The only ones who have a chance of finding work are those who have relatives in the government. People like myself and others who have no one in the government suffer," he adds.

Franco, who asked us not to use his full name, stayed in Israel for four years. Two years after his arrival, he was joined by his wife and three children. Last month he had another daughter, born in Juba.

"My wife is ill now, with malaria or typhoid symptoms. We have no money to take her to a clinic," he says.

The children have also been sick since the return to South Sudan, but they're better now, he says.

"The main problem is poverty. It causes many problems – everything here costs money. The government provides no free services. Even at a state hospital you have to pay. If you have no money – you die. That's a matter of routine here. People die because they have no money," he says.

Franco says all his efforts to find work have failed, and since his return hasn't worked even for one day. "Other people who have returned from Israel are in an even worse situation, he says. Many of them are looking for another place to go to, but have no money."

"I know a man who left for Egypt. Some want to go to Khartoum [in Sudan], but most people prefer Egypt. Many have gone there," he says.

"There's no work to be found. I haven't worked at all since my return," says Khaled Lorela, 36, in Hebrew, also calling from Juba. "I eat only once a day, I'm sick with malaria. I went to hospital. There aren't any medicines if you've got no money. We still don't have a home; I live in my aunt's house. Malaria is widespread. I'm thinking of moving out of the country. I don't know how – I have no money. If I had $2,000, I wouldn't stay here - I'd go to Egypt," he says.

A migrant loading his belongings onto a bus to the airport ahead of a flight to South Sudan last year.Credit: Moti Milrod

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