While the uproar surrounding Eli Yishai's
decision to detain and deport migrants
from north Sudan is still growing, the Interior Minister has recently received backing from an unexpected source.
A senior legal expert said on Thursday that Yishai's steps
towards deporting the illegal migrants are completely legal. "It's a misrepresentation to call these people refugees. They would not receive protection anywhere."
On Wednesday Yishai said that Sudanese nationals who are residing in Israel illegally will be placed in detention facilities
beginning October 15. In response, human rights groups called Yishai's plan to begin incarcerating Sudanese migrants "cruel."
"Sudan is listed as an enemy state and the Israeli
authorities are well aware that they cannot deport the asylum seekers from Sudan because their lives are in real danger." one group member added. "It's unfortunate that Israel chooses this moment to ignore reality."
Meanwhile, the legal official told Ynet that "regardless of Eli Yishai, a decision to protect the Sudanese migrants has never been made by Israel or by international authorities."
He claimed that human rights groups are just taking advantage of the major confusion surrounding the issue. "It's very convenient for these organizations to combine the various migrant groups, but they are not the same. Eritrea is one thing, Darfur is another and Sudan is a completely separate issue, both in Israel and to the rest of the world."
The legal official explained that the group protection given to Eritrean citizens in most countries prevents their deportation in Israel. However, North Sudan is a different story: "They aren't asylum seekers and there is no reason to grant them group protection. They don’t receive that kind of protection anywhere else in the world either. The UN agency for refugees has not ordered not to deport North Sudanese nationals."
Furthermore, North Sudan is considered by Israel to be an enemy state – a fact that further prevents its citizens from legally residing in it. "According to the Procedure for handling asylum seekers, refugees from enemy states who wish to enter Israel are governed by the law against infiltration.
He further said that "the fact that Israel has not deported the Sudanese nationals yet, does not mean it cannot begin now."
Asked about the objection to Yishai's comments on the refugees' long-term incarceration, the legal expert said, "Yishai doesn't intend to let them stay here for very long. He intends to deport them to a third country which will either take them in or deport them back to Sudan safely, without anyone knowing they were in Israel first."
Attorney Oded Feller, who heads the immigration and status division at the Association for Human Rights in Israel, accused the authorities of inhumanity.
"If Israel could send people back to Sudan, it would have done it a long time ago," he said. "The reason why asylum seekers – including survivors of the genocide in Darfur – have yet to be deported to Sudan is that there is no practical way to return there from Israel; those who do return face danger.
"Only a person who has lost his humanity can force asylum seekers and their children to deal with this cruel dilemma: to risk their lives by returning or being imprisoned for many years," he added.