Israel began its forced deportation of African refugees this past Monday, a week after police began rounding up people living in the country illegally.
The first planeload of 127 illegals left Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv for South Sudan with 127 men, women, and children on board. Because the group had voluntarily agreed to leave Israel, they were given a grant of US$1,250 (1,000 euros) per adult or US$500 (396 euros) per child, in addition to a free plane ticket back home.
The departure follows a series of mass raids conducted by the Israeli government on immigrant communities, with the aim of rounding up illegals and shipping them back home.
“So far, more than 500 people have volunteered to leave, and 300 people have been arrested,” Sabine Hadad, spokeswoman for the Population and Migration Authority, said of the operation which began at dawn on June 10.
Last month, long-simmering tensions in South Tel Aviv boiled over when Israelis protesting crimes committed by African immigrants became a riot. The windows of African shops and cars were broken, and Blacks were assaulted. A week later, Israeli officials announced new measures aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, as well as speeding up the process to deport them.
Speaking at a weekly Israeli cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a second plane of illegals would leave for South Sudan “next week.”
“Today, the government will begin the operation to repatriate illegal work infiltrators to their countries of origin,” he said. “We will do this in an orderly and dignified manner.”
A visiting delegation from South Sudan did not oppose the deportation, reports The Washington Post.
“That [Israel] is their country. If they don’t want people there, then they can come home,” South Sudanese Interior minister Alison Manani Magaya said, adding that the returnees would stay with their relatives.
The cash the returning migrants got “is equal to more than a year’s salary” in South Sudan, Magaya also said.
Israel plans to expel some 4,500 illegals through this program. There are an estimated 60,000 people living illegally in Israel.