Israel has refrained from deporting refugees from the Ivory Coast in recent months because of unrest there – but now that the situation in the country has improved, Israel has informed refugees from that region that they need to go home. And in a related issue, the Immigration Authority has informed refugees from Southern Sudan that it is now safe for them to go home, too.
Both areas had been plagued by war, violence, and even starvation for the past several years. Ivory Coast had been undergoing a fierce civil war, in which two competing presidents faced off against each other – and against citizens – for control of the country. The war ended last April with the arrest of Laurent Gbago, who had been President since 2000 and refused to step down after he lost the election.
Thousands of the country's residents were killed, and tens of thousands fled, fearing being caught up in the battle between the two sides. As a result, Israel was reluctant to deport illegal aliens who arrived here from Ivory Coast, as international human rights agreements forbid sending civilians into war zones from which they have escaped.
However, the situation in the country has now stabilized – and the government has decided that it is safe for them to return home. In addition, the declaration of independence of Southern Sudan means that it is safe for refugees from that area to return home, since the threat to them from Arab Sudanese forces, from which they had fled, was now over.
The Ivory Coast refugees were to have left by February 1. The Sudanese refugees are supposed to leave by April 1.
The Immigration Authority said Thursday that any refugees from either region who are found in Israel will now be deported. In addition, laws against employing illegal aliens will now be enforced, with employers subject to heavy fines and even jail time if they are caught employing illegals.