Several hundred more citizens of South Sudan have applied to leave Israel. More than 500 are already waiting for flights out of the country.
The departures are being arranged by the government in an operation dubbed “Going Home.” The operation combines a police crackdown with financial incentives for those who leave by choice.
In addition to the voluntary departures, 40 people have been arrested for illegal entry.
Minister of Internal Security Yitzchak Aharonovitch criticized Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai for turning the operation into a “media festival.” Yishai spoke at the airport Sunday evening as the first plane left carrying illegal entrants back to South Sudan.
Coverage of the event did serious damage to Israel’s international image, Aharonovitch argued, speaking to Voice of Israel radio. He also criticized the practice of allowing pictures to be taken as illegal entrants are arrested.
Aharonovitch called to boost police presence along the border in order to keep would-be illegal entrants out.
He also called on government figures to avoid any incitement against illegal entrants, warning that strong statements against illegal aliens could lead citizens to take the law into their own hands. “We must remember where we came from and where we are going,” he cautioned.