Forced expulsions of Africans from ‘white man’s country’
South Sudan refugees protest in Tel Aviv 10 June 2012. Photo by Roni Schutzer/FLASH90
Population and Immigration Authority’s campaign to arrest illegal aliens reaches cities of Beersheba, Arad; officials say dozens signed voluntary departure forms. South Sudanese migrant: ‘They fired everyone. We are left with no choice’
By Ilana Curiel, Ynet news
More than 80 foreigners illegally residing in Israel, including 70 South Sudanese citizens, were arrested Monday as part of an extensive campaign to deport illegal aliens, which was launched by the Population and Immigration Authority.
The men arrested during the operation were sent to Ktziot Prison, while women and children were transferred to the nearby Saharonim facility, ahead of deportation. Six families that were arrested but agreed to leave voluntarily were released until their scheduled flights.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Ynet, “What we witnessed today was just the beginning of the battle for the future of Israel. I’m certain that the court will also sanction the deportation of infiltrators from Eritrea and Sudan, who pose the main threat.”
The Immigration Authority said the operation to arrest the 1,500 South Sudanese migrants will continue in the coming weeks. Some 60,000 illegal immigrants currently reside in Israel, including 35,000 Eritreans and 15,000 Sudanese nationals.
Earlier, Yishai said the campaign “is not aimed against infiltrators, but instead is meant to preserve Israel’s character as a Zionist-Jewish country.”
Meanwhile, officials from the Authority’s enforcement unit arrived in the cities of Arad and Beersheba on Monday and distributed voluntary departure forms to South Sudanese citizens living in the area. Dozens have reportedly signed the forms thus far.
However, community leaders say the migrants are not keen on going back to their homeland, but are forced to do so due to the harsh reality. “They fired all the people, so they decided to leave,” said Michael Bazia, 45, a Sudanese community leader in Arad. “They treat us like animals so we have no choice but to go back,” he lamented.
Bazia expressed frustration over the Authority’s decision to launch the campaign four days after the Administrative Court in Jerusalem gave the green light to deport South Sudanese citizens. “They said they would give us a week to prepare, but the week hasn’t ended yet and they already started with the arrests.
“They are going from house to house and rounding up people. They tell us: ‘Get your things and go,'” he said, adding that “the (people) are willing to go home, but not in this manner. We are tired of this. We’ve only had independence for 10 months. You can’t build a state in 10 months.”
An official at the Population and Immigration Authority claimed that “whoever wants to leave voluntarily can receive a grant and some time to sort their affairs in Israel; this is much more respectful; each person should decide according to their own considerations.”
One South Sudanese resident who signed the voluntary departure forms told Ynet that he was given a week to leave the country. “I need to write down who will receive me in South Sudan, but I left my family in 1982 and I don’t know what has happened to them since. I have been in Israel for four years, and I never thought such a thing would happen. People are unhappy; they want to work. I don’t know where I’ll go in South Sudan.”
Charlie Simon, also from South Sudan, said he was unable to answer all the questions on the form. “Future plans upon arrival? I can’t answer that question. I don’t know what is happening in that country, so I wrote ‘ask me in South Sudan’.”
South Sudanese citizens comprise only 1,500 out of the 60,000 illegal migrants living in Israel. The majority of infiltrators hail from Eritrea (some 35,000) and Sudan (some 15,000), but Israel cannot deport them due to international obligations.
Eritrea has been recognized by the United Nations and the international community as a country ruled by a tyrannical regime that systematically violates human rights. Sudan, on the other hand, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and is defined as an “enemy state.” Israeli efforts to deport Sudanese and Eritrean citizens to other countries have been unsuccessful thus far.
By Allison Deger, Mondoweiss
In a wave of door-to-door police searches over the weekend, the Israeli government cemented anti-migrant sentiment into a mass deportation program by rounding up 80 refugees. The arrests come days after a Jerusalem court legalized transferring all of Israel’s 1,500 South-Sudanese migrants back to their home country.
The roundup is part of a larger policy to deport all of Israel’s asylum seekers, drafted by Interior Minister Eli Yishai who said earlier this month that Israel is for “the white man.” Speaking to Maariv on June 3, 2012 the minister said: “Muslims that arrive here do not even believe this country belongs to us, to the white man,” continuing that he is prepared to use “all the tools to expel the foreigners, until not one infiltrator remains.” The program was also endorsed by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
“They are going from house to house and rounding up people. They tell us: ‘Get your things and go,” said community organizer Michael Bazia to YNet News. Continuing, “the [people] are willing to go home, but not in this manner. We are tired of this. We’ve only had independence for 10 months. You can’t build a state in 10 months.”
Authorities are also pressuring immigrants to “voluntarily” leave Israel by offering subsidized departure flights and immunity from jail time. Under the recently revised illegal entry laws, asylum seekers can face up to three years in prison, and if Israelis are caught assisting refugees they can be sentenced for 5 years and fined over $1 million. “Whoever wants to leave voluntarily can receive a grant and some time to sort their affairs in Israel; this is much more respectful; each person should decide according to their own considerations,” said an immigration agent to YNet.
With the looming threat of prison, six of the arrested families signed departure statements and YNet also reported dozens of African migrants in hiding have accepted the strong-arm deal. Arrested refugee families who did not accept the offer were split apart, with men incarcerated in a separate facility from women and children.
Anti-migrant politicians are hopeful to expand Thursday’s deportation greenlight by legalizing the transfer for all of Israel’s 60,000 refugees, not just the South-Sudanese. Currently only Eritrean and North Sudanese immigrants receive temporary stays, but Yishai, the designer of the mass deportation policy, has assembled a task force to erode those protections. In an interview with YNet on Sunday, the minister spoke about his “Yishai plan” and aspirations to eject Eritreans, despite their asylum status:
‘As for the Eritrean citizens, I haven’t given up yet,’ [Yishai] said Sunday in an interview with Ynet. ‘I met with the Eritrean ambassador to Israel who told me of the situation there, and the situation there is good. Security wise, it is no more dangerous than Sderot.’
Yishai went on to scapegoat the United Nations:
‘They have problems in the African countries? Let the UN handle those problems. Let it handle it [the problems] better than it handled the problems in Syria. It is unacceptable that the UN is not solving these problems and we have to pay for it. I’m not the Eritrean welfare minister and not the Sudanese labor minister.’
Ahead of the migrants’ arrests, the Israeli government also has sped up construction on a new detention facility set to warehouse arrested refugees. The prison, Ir Amim, or city of nations, is planned to hold over 10,000 asylum seekers. Haaretz reported today a construction worker on site said, “We’re building the Sudanese a political asylum.” Haaretz’s Gili Cohen then continued, “the inmates will stay in shipping containers turned into mobile homes.”
[Eli Yishai is head of the Shas party, the right-wing Orthodox party of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews. For more on Yishai’s racism, see Right turns on ‘them’ – Africans and the wrong sort of Jew]