An Israeli court cleared the way on Thursday for the deportation of an estimated 1,500 South Sudanese, after rejecting a petition against a change in the policy on illegal migrants from there.
In January, Interior Minister Eli Yishai cancelled the long-standing policy to provide South Sudanese migrants “collective protection” or “temporary protection,” which prevented their deportation.
Human rights groups petitioned the court against the decision, arguing that despite independence in July 2011, the situation in South Sudan was still one of warfare, with much poverty and a lack of medical services.
Therefore, the groups argued, the “collective protection” order should not be removed.
Thursday’s decision by the Jerusalem district court said that, “while there are difficulties in the country and a certain degree of instability, those are primarily on the northern border and other regions where there is tension.
“The rest of the state — the vast majority of its territory — is not at risk,” the court said, based on surveys provided by the foreign ministry.
Yishai praised the decision, “which will allow the deportation of 1,500 infiltrators who arrived from South Sudan,” his office said.
The minister also said he hoped “it is just the first of a series of measures that will enable us to deport Eritreans and North Sudanese.”
Israeli military radio quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying that the way to solve the problem is for Israel to finish building “as soon as possible” a security barrier along the border with Egypt.
Israel has been building a giant, impenetrable security barrier along its 240-kilometre (150-mile) border with the Egyptian Sinai.
So far 170 kilometres have been erected and the project is due to be completed later this year, the radio said.
Netanyahu also said Israelis who hire illegal immigrants must be sanctioned.
The rising number of Africans in Israel has hit the headlines in recent weeks, after a spike in racial tensions led to a riot in southern Tel Aviv, where tens of thousands of migrants live.
Interior ministry statistics show that approximately 60,000 African immigrants have entered Israel illegally, the vast majority of them from Sudan and Eritrea.
Some are refugees fleeing persecution in their home nations, but others are economic migrants.
The Haaretz daily’s website reported that the defence ministry had announced plans to erect up to 25,000 tents in various detention centres for African migrants.
The aim is “to ensure that all African migrants who enter Israel will be directly transferred to a detention center where they will stay for long periods of time, in order to prevent their entry to Israeli cities,” the website said.