Israel deports 1st planeload of African migrants home2012-06-18 13:45 Jerusalem - A plane carrying 123 illegal South Sudanese migrants departed from Tel Aviv en route to Juba on Monday, the capital city of their home country.
Another four migrants boarded commercial flights following the full chartered plane, which took off shortly after the plane left the country.
The 127 passengers are the first batch of African migrants deported by the Israel government, as part of the Jewish country's recent campaign to combat illegal immigrants.
Each adult in the group was given 1,300 U.S. dollars while children get 500 U.S. dollars each.
"All those who boarded the flight back to South Sudan did so voluntarily," Amnon Ben-Ami, the director of the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) said.
Some 300 South Sudanese nationals, detained in cities across Israel over the past week and currently held in special facilities, will board another flight scheduled to depart next Monday, Ben-Ami said.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who initiated 'Operation Going Back Home' came to meet the migrants at the airport.
The deportation of the first group of migrants came after the Jerusalem District Court last week heeded the state's request to suspend the "collective protection" status granted to the South Sudanese migrants in the country.
The court's ruling said they could safely return home since South Sudan has become an independent country.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was committed to preserving the dignity of the repatriated African migrants, telling his cabinet that immigration authorities were working to limit and eventually end the flood of asylum seekers that have poured across the country's border with Egypt over the past three years.
"The infiltrators come here to work," Netanyahu told his ministers.
He added that "if there will not be work for them here they will have no reason to come" .
Officials welcomed Monday's deportation, but noted that over 2,500 South Sudanese and more than 50,000 infiltrators from a number of African nations still reside in the country.
Local organisations aiding the migrants decried the deportation, saying the migrants' were not given the opportunity to apply for refugee status.
But some of the migrants who boarded Monday's flights said they were happy to go home.
``I am glad to go back to my country,’’ one migrant told local media as he boarded a bus to the airport.
``We have a new country now and it's good for us,’’ a woman who gave her name as Theresa said.
However, Joseph Yafo, another migrant, said he was reluctant to return to Sudan.
``I've been living in Israel for five years. While I'm going back to my country, I love Israel and Israelis.’’