Israel's Population and Immigration Authority recently announced that South Sudanese migrants have a week to leave the country voluntarily, but on Sunday – just three days after the announcement – eight migrants from the new African country were detained.
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Speaking to Ynet, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, "Those who arrive at our offices will not be arrested. They will have a week to leave the country of their own accord. Those who hide are arrested."
The minister said Immigration Authority inspectors will eventually track down all migrants from the Ivory Coast and Sudan. "Some of them went into hiding after the court's ruling, but we will locate them. We have an intelligence unit," he said.
Last week the Administrative Court in Jerusalem rejected an appeal filed by human rights groups against Yishai's decision to lift the "collective protection" previously afforded to asylum seekers from South Sudan.
The court's decision effectively allows the government to deport some 1,500 South Sudanese.
According to Yishai, inspectors are seeking out illegal migrants "in many cities. It's a difficult task, and we asked for more personnel and a budget increase. The prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) approved it."
A total of 22 migrants were detained Sunday. Eight of them are from South Sudan, three are Nigerians, three are Sri Lanka nationals, two are from Ghana, two came to Israel from the Ivory Coast, two are Romanian and the remaining two are from Moldova.
In a special government meeting on illegal immigration held last week, Netanyahu listed steps which he said were meant to "solve the infiltrator problem," including construction of holding facilities and sanctions against employers of infiltrators.
He noted that Interior Minister Yishai is preparing the "removal of the infiltrators" and that the internal security minister will aim to arrest criminal infiltrators in the Tel Aviv area.
"These means and others will start to reverse the trend and we will begin to solve it. It's a tough problem but we're handing it," the PM said.