Several hundred people demonstrated against the deportation of South Sudanese citizens in Tel Aviv on Saturday. The protesters are demanding that the government stop the deportation until the situation in South Sudan stabilizes.
A counter protest of Tel Aviv residents supporting the deportation was held simultaneously and prompted arguments between the two groups of demonstrators.
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Neka Kirba, 15, came to Israel with her family via the southern border five years ago. "We escaped when there was great danger to our lives," she said. "Our friends from South Sudan who recently joined us in Israel told us of the ongoing threat. Since I learned of the government's intention I live in constant fear. I ask that the state give us more time until things improve."
Orit Maron of the ASSAF refugee aid organization said, "The government is sending people where their lives are in danger and should be aware that the price of deportation is their lives." Earlier this week, some 400 Israeli authors, academics and other public figures signed a petition calling on the government to stop the deportation.
Kids protest deportation in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Several dozen southern Tel Aviv residents held a counter protest on Saturday in support of the government's decision. They carried signs which read "Israel isn't the answer to Africa's troubles" and "The south is collapsing, stop the infiltrators' occupation." Shlomo Maslawi, a Tel Aviv city councilman told Ynet: "The neighborhoods are flooded with infiltrators and crime, the social infrastructure is collapsing and meanwhile the residents suffer."
There are contradictory figures regarding the number of South Sudanese citizens living in Israel. Aid groups suggest some 700 refugees from South Sudan currently reside in Israel, including 400 children, while the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority's estimate stands at 3,000.
From South Sudan to south Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Last January, the Immigration Authority announced that all South Sudanese asylum seekers must leave Israel by the end of March, or face deportation. The government maintains that South Sudan's declaration of independence will enable their return. Meanwhile, members of the community as well as aid groups claim the situation in the country is still very dangerous.
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