Sudanese refugees at Ben-Gurion Airport (archives)
Photo: AFP

Israel to help Sudan build refugee city

New solution to refugee problem: South Sudanese government considering building city-like facility to take in refugees from Israel. Interior Minister Yishai pledges funding from ministry's budget for each refugee returned

A new initiative is being examined whereby Israel would assist the South Sudanese government in the construction of a refugee city.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior ministers recently voiced their wish to promote a program for the return of the Sudanese refugees to their country.


Calcalist has learned that one of the initiatives currently being examined includes an unprecedented project.


Official sources are currently talking to the South Sudanese government about Israeli assistance in the construction of a massive city-like facility to which the refugees from Israel will be relocated, including non-Sudanese refugees.


In the first stage, according to the plan, 10,000 refugees, who the Sudanese government had already agreed to take in, will be flown back to Sudan. Israel will pay a fixed payment for each refugee taken in by the Sudanese government.


It is still unclear whether Israel will provide contractors to construct the facility or just fund its construction.


Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Calcalist that he advocated the relocation of the refugees to South Sudan and confirmed that negotiations were being held with officials of the African country.


Yishai did not, however, address the question of who would build the "refugee city", but did say that he would pledge funding from his ministry's budget for each refugee returned.


PM: Nationwide plague

According to ministry figures, there are some 51,000 refugees in Israel – 30,000 from Eritrea and some 15,000 from Sudan. Israel had already returned some of the refugees to Sudan, giving each a $500 "adjustment payment".


Population, Immigration and Border Authority Director-General Amnon Ben-Ami told Calcalist that "by 2006, 2,788 refugees crossed the border into Israel. In 2007, 5,411 came into the county, and in 2010 – 14,744. This year we'll have over 16,000 refugees in the country.


"We are witnessing a troubling increase in numbers. We see refugees in Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Tiberias and in many more local councils."


Ben-Ami added, "The government decided to put up a fence on the Egyptian border by October 2012 and to tighten border control. The government also tasked the Foreign Ministry with locating countries that would be willing to take in the refugees.


"Furthermore, the government will construct an open facility near the Egyptian border. We want to hamper their motivation to come into Israel. Once the facility is up, we can control their employment."


Prime Minister Netanyahu has noted that "if we have to, we'll close businesses to ensure that the enterprise called the State of Israel does not shut down.


"This is a nationwide plague – in the economy, society, homeland security. There is no obligation to take in illegal infiltrators. This is no longer a matter of making a decision – it's a necessity, an imperative."


Netanyahu also announced his plans to travel to Africa to advance the arrangements for the return of the refugees. "Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state must be secured," he said.


The Foreign Ministry denies it s holding talks for the construction of the South Sudanese facility.


Click here to read this report in Hebrew



פרסום ראשון: 12.27.11, 13:31
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