The Police and the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) on Tuesday reported an increase in the number of South Sudanese migrants in Israel who have voluntarily agreed to fly back to their home country. On Tuesday alone, more than 300 infiltrators from South Sudan filed requests to leave. The operation to return illegal infiltrators to their home countries, dubbed "Operation Returning Home", recorded more than 300 applicants since it began on Sunday, not including those who registered on Tuesday. A direct flight to South Sudan, carrying dozens of South Sudanese citizens, will take off from Ben-Gurion International Airport next Sunday.
As part of preparations for the flight, representatives from South Sudan's immigration authority are expected in Israel to help coordinate the arrangements. The officials will be working side by side with PIBA.
Simon and Theresa, two South Sudanese citizens, along with their four children, are among those flying home on Sunday. The family has been living in Israel for the last five years. On Sunday, PIBA officers arrested Theresa, and, according to her, only released her once she agreed to sign a declaration to leave Israel "of her own free will." "I signed it because I had no choice," she said, adding "we are willing to return to our new country [South Sudan became an independent state in July 2011], but we need more time to get organized. Why are we grabbed on the streets and thrown into jail? We are not criminals. They say the flight is on June 17 and we are willing to take it, but they should not behave this way," Theresa said.
"Why arrest people? We are willing to go. We didn't have time to gather our belongings, and people did not have time to get the salaries they are owed. No one is looking after us, the U.N. does not care either," Simon said.
Orit Marom, the advocacy coordinator for the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel (ASSAF), on Tuesday spoke out against Israel's treatment of the South Sudanese migrants. "They [the authorities] turned these people into Israel's greatest enemy. The immigration authority is rushing to arrest and deport them without even letting them pack their things and say goodbye to the place they lived in for years."
PIBA released a statement in response to the claims, saying "Those who are detained are given enough time by the officers to pack their belongings."
Meanwhile, MK Danny Danon (Likud) presented a bill to the government on Tuesday which assigns responsibility for dealing with the illegal infiltrators to the interior minister with a goal of deporting half of the illegal immigrants currently in Israel within a year, 80 percent within two years, and the rest by the third year.