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NEW DEADLINE FOR SOUTH SUDANESE IN ISRAEL (6 FEBRUARY 2012)

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cThe Washington, D.C.-based Sudan advocacy umbrella organization, Voices for Sudan (VFS), expresses deep concern about a recent decision by Israeli government officials that all South Sudanese must return to South Sudan by the first of April or face deportation from Israel. This announcement comes after a trip to Israel made by President Salvir Kiir of South Sudan, where the two nations decidedly agreed to work together to assist the return of refugees to South Sudan.

Asylum seekers from Sudan first travel to Egypt, and take the treacherous journey across the Sinai Peninsula to get to Israel. These people face extreme conditions in order to have a chance to live in peaceful land. The estimated population of South Sudanese in Israel is around 7,000 people, a very small percentage of the estimated 50,000 African economic migrants and asylum seekers there. Speaking about these issues Netanyahu recently stated, “We are not obligated to accept illegal infiltrators. The refugees are a small drizzle in this steam. We’ll continue to look after the refugees. We’ll get washed away if we don’t. It’s no longer a choice but a necessity.”

Those who willingly return before the March 31 deadline will receive a $1,300 stipend. These two nations face many challenges with the transportation of a large amount of people. Some of the refugees have already expressed concerns about forceful return to Sudan. Specifically, they are nervous about the sudden deportation from Israel as this deadline gave them only two months to make arrangements.

What is unknown are the many dangers posed to the refugees upon their return due to widespread insecurity in some parts South Sudan. Many of the issues refugees fled from have not been addressed. There has been recent crisis in the region with high insecurity, famine, and conflict. South Sudan has also had an influx of refugees recently from the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions due to conflicts there. Additionally Khartoum is requiring the South Sudanese living there to return to South Sudan by April 8th. These crisis have put a strain on the resources and capacity of South Sudan to accept and care for refugees.

Voices for Sudan is concerned for a responsible return of the people, some who have not been home in over a decade. Recently, Israeli NGOS gathered in order to discuss this matter and decide how best to assist the people who must leave and also those who have reason to stay. This news is encouraging to Voices for Sudan who hopes these NGOS will move forward with their advocacy efforts to help elevate the voice of the South Sudanese in deciding the ways in which they return home. “Voices for Sudan appreciates the effort of the NGOS but we must also do our part here in the United States,’’ says Jimmy Mulla, President of Voices for Sudan (VFs). In the coming week VFS plans to meet with Congressmen who are members of the Sudan Caucus in order to bring to light the concerns and effects of the approaching deadline.

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