Israel has deported Sudanese asylum seekers by issuing documents with purposefully incorrect nationalities, a recently published report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed.
More than 100 Sudanese nationals in Israel were given passports or birth certificates incorrectly labeling them as citizens of South Sudan, the report said. Israel has no repatriation agreement with Sudan, but can deport the asylum-seekers to the country’s neighbor, which seceded last year from the North.
The revelation comes two months after Israel initiated a controversial ‘emergency plan’ to deport 60,000 African migrants.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified the plan, claiming that "The breach of our borders by infiltrators could threaten the Jewish and democratic state. … We will begin by removing the infiltrators from South Sudan and move on to others."
Four people were recently denied entry after being deported from Israel to South Sudan, and were forced to return to Tel Aviv, the report said.
The Israeli government has threatened the refugees with jail sentences unless they leave the country.
Many of those deported fled Sudan’s war-torn Nuba Mountains region, which borders the South. The ongoing conflict there between the Sudanese army and rebel militants has killed thousands of civilians. An estimated 350,000 people have been displaced by the violence, Human Rights Watch reported.
32-year-old refugee Thomas Abdullah Tutu has lived in Tel Aviv since 2007 and is frightened of going back, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said.
"It is a bad situation in South Sudan", he told the Bureau by phone. “There is nothing there and no one has family, houses or money. They [the immigrants] are afraid to go, and confused. If I go there I am sure something bad will happen to me."
In June, the Jerusalem Administrative Court ruled against a petition filed by human rights activists urging Israeli politicians not to deport the Sudanese refugees. Hundreds of African asylum-seekers subsequently protested outside Tel Aviv’s UN offices, demanding fair treatment.
South Sudan achieved independence in July 2011, following a bloody civil war that lasted for more than two decades. Conflict is still frequent on the contested border between the nations, which has led locals to flee en masse the violence-wracked region.