Two months after Israelis celebrated their Independence Day, independence day came again last week in Israel.
South Sudanese independence day.
The estimated 8,000 Christian and Muslim refugees from Sudan who have found a haven in the Jewish state in the last half-decade, since the northern-oriented Sudanese government began persecuting the residents in the south, celebrated the creation last week of the world’s newest country. In January, residents of southern Sudan overwhelmingly approved an independence referendum; last week Sudan recognized South Sudan as an independent land; Israel quickly recognized South Sudan, and the IsraAID organization immediately dispatched a shipment of aid “as a goodwill gesture between both communities.”
Still up in the air: diplomatic relations between Israel and South Sudan (there are no ties between Israel and Sudan), and the fate of Israel’s Sudanese refugees (Interior Minister Eli Yishai called for negotiations over the refugees’ repatriation).
“They cannot all be put on planes tomorrow,” Yonatan Berman, legal adviser to the Hotline for Migrant Workers, told Haaretz. Some asylum seekers have expressed fear for their safety if they return to Africa. “When you return refugees, the first question is not whether their country of origin is prepared to accept them but whether they would be exposed to danger in their country of origin,” Berman said.
Most of Israel’s 17,000 African refugees live in Tel Aviv, where the Sudanese, above, celebrated the new country’s independence. Although Israel bars businesses from employing asylum seekers, many have found per diem work.