Illegal immigrants in Israel
Illegal immigrants in IsraelTomer Neuberg, Flash 90

Israel is currently in talks with the Sudanese government in a bid to repatriate Sudanese nationals illegally residing in Israel, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday morning.

The report cited an Israeli official with knowledge of the talks, but included no details on how far along the plan has progressed and whether the two sides are close to reaching an agreement.

There are roughly 31,000 infiltrators currently living in Israel, the vast majority of them illegal immigrants from African who entered Israel via the Sinai Peninsula in the mid-to-late 2000s and early 2010s, before Israel completed its southern border fence.

Of those 31,000 infiltrators remaining in Israel, more than 20%, or close to 7,000, are Sudanese nationals, with the vast majority (71%) being Eritrean nationals.

Israel has worked in the past with states in central and eastern Africa to either repatriate the infiltrators or send them to third countries. The Israeli Supreme Court has repeatedly blocked efforts by the government to deport illegal immigrants, however.

On Tuesday, Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haidar Badawi Sadiq said that Israel and Sudan were in talks to normalize relations between the two countries.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry, however, later expressed “astonishment” at Sadiq’s comments.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sudan confirms that the issue of relations with Israel was not discussed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in any way, and Ambassador Haydar Badawi (Sadig) was not assigned to make any statements in this regard," added the statement quoted by Reuters.