A few hours after the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Thursday that South Sudanese infiltrators can be deported back to their home country, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) called on the migrants to leave Israel voluntarily and avoid arrest — within a week from this Friday.
The authority stated that no law enforcement measures will be taken against South Sudanese infiltrators residing in the country should they voluntarily leave within seven days. "The South Sudanese citizens can contact our Unit for Voluntary Departure within the next week, and they will receive assistance," the authority said in a statement.
Meanwhile, following the court's decision on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting over an "Emergency Plan for Infiltrators," together with Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and representatives of the army, police and Prisons Service. During the meeting, Netanyahu presented four emergency measures that the state will focus on from now on to confront the infiltrator problem.
"This is a serious problem and we are dealing with it," Netanyahu said, before elaborating on his plan. "First, we will complete the fence as quickly as possible and deal with infiltrations until the fence is completed. Second, we will build detention facilities including thousands of units. Third, we will move infiltrators directly from the border to the facilities. We needed to make several changes and we made them. Fourth, we will punish those who illegally employ infiltrators."
The prime minister emphasized that, "Next week will see the second and third Knesset readings of a law that will deal severely with such employers, and allow their businesses to be closed. At the same time, the Interior Minister is preparing to issue orders that will allow for the detention of the infiltrators. This is still partial but it is a start. The public security minister will detain infiltrator criminals in the Tel Aviv area and put them in prison, and this will be done in addition to the continued deployment of a Border Police unit in southern Tel Aviv.
"I believe that these and other measures, which I will not detail here, will begin to reverse the trend and we will solve it," Netanyahu said.
The plan to move infiltrators into detention facilities will include building and expanding five facilities which together will be able to hold about 20,000 infiltrators, according to Army Radio. Based on the plan formulated by Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Shani, the new facilities will be established by the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces by the end of the year.
Three new facilities will be constructed in the southern Ketziot compound. They will join the already existing Saharonim facility and the Ketziot Prison, which will turn into an infiltrator-absorption facility.
The plan aims to prevent new infiltrators from making their way to Israeli cities, by transferring them straight to the detention facilities where they will be kept for long periods of time, starting next week.
The meeting at the Prime Minister's Office was held hours after the Administrative Affairs Court in Jerusalem rejected a petition filed by human rights organizations against the interior minister's decision to terminate the "collective protection" status given to South Sudanese infiltrators. This protection status has so far prevented the deportation of infiltrators from Israel, allowing them to stay in the country.
It is estimated that the number of Southern Sudanese infiltrators in Israel ranges from 700 to 3,000, and that it will take several months until their actual expulsion from the country. In addition to the South Sudanese migrants, there are currently about 35,000 infiltrators from Eritrea residing in Israel, and about 15,000 from Sudan, but they are still protected from deportation at this stage.
Yishai told Israel Radio on Friday that he would work diligently to return the infiltrators to their countries or to a third country, and that this was a national priority.
Contrary to official estimates, Yishai said there were at least 60,000 infiltrators from Eritrea in Israel and about 40,000 from other countries. He added that in the near future, infiltrators living in south Tel Aviv, Eilat and the southern town of Arad will be transferred into the detention facility and tent city being constructed in the south. He noted that the infiltrators would be given housing, food and proper medical services at the facility.
Yishai also expressed hope that PIBA will be granted the scope of authority to allow it to deal effectively with the infiltrator problem.
Meanwhile, MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) met on Thursday with Eritrean Ambassador to Israel Tesfamariam Tekeste Debbas, and presented him with the bill that was recently submitted to the Knesset that will severely punish business owners who illegally employ and house infiltrators.
According to the Eritrean ambassador, his country does not pose any dangers to the safety of Eritrean citizens who infiltrated into Israel and they can be returned to their homeland. "Every citizen who returns to his country will not be hurt nor will any harm befall them," he said.