Israel launched a high-profile deportation drive against African migrants on Sunday with an airlift of South Sudanese whose government said they would be welcomed back as economic assets.
The planned weekly repatriation flights from Tel Aviv to Juba have been played up by the Israeli government amid uncertainty as to how it might deal with much greater migrant influxes from Sudan, a hostile country, and war-ravaged Eritrea.
“Today the government commences the mission of returning the illegal work infiltrators to their countries of origin,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet, using a term Israel applies to the vast majority of the some 60,000 Africans who walked in over its porous border with Egypt in recent years.
Israeli authorities rounded up dozens of African migrants slated for deportation, most of them from South Sudan, as the government weighs tough penalties against Israelis who help illegal aliens.
The Population and Migration Authority said in a statement that on Monday [June 11] officers arrested 45 migrants from South Sudan, along with three Nigerians, two Ghanaians, two Chinese, one from Ivory Coast, one from the Philippines and one whose nationality is being checked.
Israeli public radio said that in at least two cases, during early-morning swoops in the Red Sea town of Eilat, women with young children were picked up as they walked on the streets and were driven away.
Journalist and rights activist Toni Lissi told army radio that suspects in the town were picked up on the street, in banks, at their places of work and in door-to-door searches.
“The people arrested were taken on buses to detention centres. Their mobile phones were confiscated,” she said.
“Other immigrants are hiding in their homes, not daring to go out until things calm down,’ she said.
An Israeli court on Thursday ruled that the lives of an estimated 1500 migrants from South Sudan are no longer at risk in their homeland, clearing the way for their mass expulsion.
Israeli daily Haaretz said that a government committee on legislation had approved submission of draft bills which would raise the maximum penalty for Israelis who employed, housed or transported around the country illegal immigrants to five years in prison from two at present.
The bill is expected to go to parliament for a preliminary reading this week.
In the photo above, AFP captures a naked African female migrant described as a prostitute in a series of raids by Israel’s immigration police aimed at rounding up and deporting illegal African immigrants. The scene was recorded on Tuesday [June 12] near Levinsky Park, in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv, where thousands of migrants reside. The question urgently begging for an answer is why the woman was not allowed to put on clothes before her arrest.