United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel William Toll on Monday said that the government of Israel
must postpone the deportation of South Sudanese refugees.
During a session of the special Knesset committee appointed to examine the issue of foreign workers, Toll urged the authorities to extend the collective protection of asylum seekers due to the dangerous situation in South Sudan.
According to Toll, South Sudanese citizens should be allowed to file individual requests to be recognized as refugees due to the situation in the country and because of the lengthy process.
Following a petition filed by human rights organizations against the deportation of South Sudanese nationals, the court ordered
the Population and Immigration Administration to submit its response by April 15th, but the Interior Ministry asked for an extension until May 6.
During the extension period, the Ministry committed to refrain from taking legal action against those slated for deportation, but at the same time the Immigration Administration didn't extend their visas, causing many of them to lose their jobs.
Yossi Edelstein, the director of the Interior Ministry's Population Administration's Foreign Workers' Enforcement Unit said that during the past year some 1,000 South Sudanese refugees voluntarily returned to their country, after receiving 1,000 Euros from the Israeli government.
"Unfortunately, there was a low turnout," he said.
In response, representatives of the refugees' aid agencies slammed Edelstein, claiming that the asylum seekers' departure was forced, after the Administration revoked their visas.
Orit Marom from the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel (ASSAF) said that the situation in South Sudan, which was recently established and is not yet a functioning state, was too dangerous and unfit for the return of the refugees.
Marom added that most of the 700 refugees have an invalid visa and are unable to work, while being at constant risk of arbitrary arrest.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union)
said in response that his "heart aches" over the fact that the refugees have no visas, after infiltrating into a country that is not theirs. "If they are hungry, why are they refusing to return home?" he asked.