Inspectors from the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority (PIBA) raided a neighborhood in Eilat Monday morning and arrested dozens of illegal aliens from South Sudan, with the intent of deporting them.
An initial group of eight infiltrators from South Sudan was arrested Sunday.
The arrests follow a decision by the government to begin taking tough action against the flood of illegal work migrants who have been entering Israel on foot from Africa for the past few years.
Until recently, leftist campaigns made it impossible to take effective action against the immigrants. However, several high profile cases in which immigrants attacked women brought the media around, and the government and courts followed suit.
In an interview with IDF Radio, Interior Minister Eli Yishai disputed on Monday a United Nations statement that the situation in Eritrea is too dangerous for immigrants to be forcibly repatriated there. "It is safer than Sderot and the south [of Israel]," he said, "and there is nothing to prevent returning the Eritrean citizens to their country."
"I prefer that there will be criticism of Israel while the state remains Jewish," he added, "than for there to be no criticism and for us to look back in 10 years' time and remember how we were democratic, took in all the infiltrators and made a mistake."
"When we called the infiltrators in the south 'refugees' we misled the public," the Shas party chairman added. He noted that infiltrators who approach the authorities of their own accord and ask to be deported will receive a plane ticket and a grant of 1,000 euro.