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S. Sudanese Farewell to Israel: Tears, Mostly Free Will

South Sudanese boarded buses for the airport in cities around the country on Sunday, often in tears, but voluntarily, ready to go home.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 6/17/2012, 1:57 PM

South Sudan Agriculture Minister Betty Ogwar
South Sudan Agriculture Minister Betty Ogwar
Israel news screenshot

South Sudanese family boarded buses for the airport in cities around the country Sunday, often in tears, but voluntarily, ready to go home.

Many wearing backpacks, several dozen families were sighted gathering in the center of town in the northeastern Negev city of Arad, getting ready to board rented buses for the journey to Ben-Gurion International Airport. 

It is estimated that several thousand Africans have settled in the city overlooking the southern Dead Sea hotel area over the past few years. "Their kids were crying,” Michael Redbourne, a resident of the city told Arutz Sheva. “Lots were in the bank closing their accounts.”

Speaking at Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the government would continue to repatriate illegal aliens to their home countries. However, he said the process would be carried out with sensitivity, ensuring their personal honor would be preserved as much as possible.

"We will do this in an organized manner, ensuring that they are respected,” Netanyahu said. "We are dealing with the illegal alien issue by preventing them from entering the country through construction of a security fence in the south, and a quick repatriation of aliens to their homelands, and in some cases to a third country – all the while reducing the incentives for them to attempt to come to Israel,” he said.

The first flight of some 120 South Sudanese illegal aliens who are being repatriated to their native land is set to leave Israel on Sunday evening and is scheduled to arrive in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Those traveling are a mix of volunteers and detainees who have been arrested in the sweep by immigration officials over the past several weeks.

The flight was made possible after the High Court ruled that citizens from South Sudan do not necessarily hold the status of political refugees.