After the Jerusalem District Court ruled last week that South Sudanese infiltrators can be sent back to their home country, the Interior Ministry on Sunday began making preparations for their deportation, despite an announcement by the Population, Immigration and Border Authority last week saying the migrants had a week to leave Israel voluntarily.
"Although police inspectors have not arrested any South Sudanese migrants they came across until now, as of today they will begin arresting and transferring them to designated facilities," a high-ranking official from the Interior Ministry told Israel Hayom. "If the number of those arrested fills entire airplanes, we will have special flights designated for them. If the numbers are low, [the migrants] may be put on commercial flights."
The authority has already detained eight South Sudanese asylum seekers in Eilat over the weekend, provoking harsh criticism by human rights organizations, Israel Radio reported Sunday. The authority said that it reserved the right to arrest the migrants even if they had received a week to voluntarily leave the country, the report said.
Following the court's decision last week, the authority said it would give any migrants who chose to depart from Israel voluntarily a plane ticket and money.
South Tel Aviv residents were not very enthusiastic with the court's decision last week, as it dealt only with South Sudanese infiltrators and not with those coming from Eritrea or Sudan, who are currently protected from deportation because of possible danger to their lives.
Tel Aviv Municipal Councillor Shlomo Maslawi, who lives in south Tel Aviv's Hatikvah neighborhood, told Israel Hayom, "The critical mass of infiltrators is made up of around 40,000 Eritreans and tens of thousands of additional migrants who cannot be removed and will therefore remain here."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai has asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak to instruct the army to bypass the law, arrest any infiltrators found crossing the border, and send them to prison for up to three years if necessary.
Official estimates talk of some 300 to 7,000 South Sudanese infiltrators currently residing in Israel, in addition to 35,000 Eritreans and 15,000 Sudanese. Yishai, who has been calling for the wholesale deportation of African infiltrators, has claimed that there are at least 60,000 Eritreans in Israel, in addition to 40,000 from other countries.
Meanwhile, Ramat Negev Regional Council Mayor Shmuel Rifman sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing resistance to the construction of a tent city in the Negev for thousands of African infiltrators, Israel Radio reported Sunday.
According to Rifman, the Ramat Negev Regional Council will employ all possible means to prevent the realization of the plan, as the regional council believes it is unrealistic, unnecessary, expensive and irresponsible to build a tent city in its territory.
Rifman said he was working against the plan, not just for the residents of Ramat Negev, to whom he was committed, but also for all of Israel's citizens, who might have to pay a heavy price in the future for the government's irresponsibility and hesitation in the face of the infiltrator problem.