About to be deported? Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a brief that says that Israel can return illegal migrants from South Sudan to their country.
Weinstein met with Netanyahu on Wednesday evening and informed him that the Attorney General's Office would support the stance of the Foreign Ministry, which seeks to deport the migrants now that South Sudan has been declared an independent state.
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The Foreign Ministry is seeking to deport migrants from South Sudan who do not meet the criteria for asylum.
According to estimates from groups that assist asylum seekers and a count that the community itself conducted, some 700 asylum seekers from South Sudan currently live in Israel, including some 400 children. However, the Population Administration puts the number at some 3,000.
South Sudanese refugees: We want to live (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The state attorney plans to ask the Jerusalem District Court to grant an order that would forbid the detention or custody of refugees from South Sudan, which is facing instability despite its newfound independence.
The United Nations, on the other hand, believes that Israel should hold off on deporting the South Sudanese migrants. During a Knesset Committee debate on foreign workers, the UN Refugee Agency's representative in Israel said that the agency supported an extension of the collective protection given to asylum seekers.
The South Sudanese themselves, as well as the various organizations that provide aid to the community, also think that Israel should wait before sending would-be refugees back to their country because of the risk of war and the harsh living conditions there.
On Sunday, Netanyahu addressed the growing problem of illegal migrants, saying that his government had taken a number of steps to address the issue: "First of all, to stop them from coming in and second of all to start sending them out," the prime minister said.
"We have 60,000 migrants – if we don't stop the inflow we could easily reach 600,000."
Netanyahu also cautioned against additional infiltrators entering Israel via the Egyptian border. "This is flooding the state and wiping out our identity as a Jewish, democratic state, so we've been forced to set up a physical obstacle that will be completed by October," he said.
Turning to the opposition to African migrants, especially in south Tel Aviv, Netanyahu called the growing refugee population "a bother to many residents, and rightfully so."
"We will solve the problem by acting. We hear the calls and are taking action. The action will prevail," he promised.