Bittersweet homecoming for South Sudanese from Israel
lannytyndall on 27 Jun 12
Stepping off the airplane onto a rare bit of tarmac in South Sudan,Victoria Jozef dropped to the ground, tears Womens Nike Free Run 2 streaming down her face, as she saw her newly independent country for the first time. Part of the second batch of 150 South Sudanese that Israel has flown back amid a crackdown on African migrants, Jozef had mixed emotions about returning with four children to a home that countless people fled during five intermittent decades of civil war. "I was born in Juba, and I got married here before I went to Israel. I'm happy and that's why I'm crying", she said, mopping at her tears as other South Sudanese helped her across the airstrip. But the happiness was bittersweet, as many returnees said they did not opt for the 'voluntary repatriation' claimed by both governments. "We were forced to return. We were all arrested and put in jail, along with my children," she said, adding that one of the children is mentally disabled and remains there with no news about when he will travel. "Every year for four years they told us to renew our visas, I don't understand", she said. Descending the aircraft steps in sharp suits, or designer jeans and hip-hop bling dangling off their necks and ears, and laptop bags straddling shoulders, people darted nervous glances at the stark, bare landscape. While others carted enormous flat screen TVs in a country powered by small diesel generators, others took pictures on iPhones as mothers wheeled brand-new buggies in a capital city still largely linked by potholed roads. "I've been a long time out of the country... I don't exactly know what's going on here", said Cris Lori, standing with a small towel draped over his head to stave off the heat and glare on a rare overcast day. But despite his fears for the future, there was no alternative. "They started with voluntary repatriation, now deportation and detention," he said. "Most people or families in Israel lost their benefits and they couldn't get their money in the banks or anywhere as they were captured in their shops", said Jozeff. Brandishing the piece of paper that police gave when detaining him despite already registering to fly home, Aguek Deng Achuil said he had to leave all his luggage after being arrested at the airport with 25 others trying to transport things home. "The police for immigration said: 'We want to catch all the South Sudanese that are in Israel'," he said. "Israeli people say: 'We don't need the South Sudanese'. They say we are the cancer and they are ashamed of us, and they say: 'We don't need black people'." "I want to tell a message to my government... to talk to the government of Israel and release these people, as the children are in prison. Even me, I (was) in prison", for eight days, he said. Now back, Achuil said he would focus on trying to build his nation. "I want to help my people -- I go to army, I will do any job just to develop my country like Israel", he said. "It's very important for them to come home and develop their own country", said Allison Barnabas, director for Mens Nike Free Run 3emergencies at the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. "Me, even I was in the diaspora. I came back home and now I'm working with the government to develop our country", he said. Glaston Boro studied for six years in Israel before returning five months ago to start a new life. "Israeli people don't like black people, they hate the black people," he said. "They don't love the South Sudanese people... But we hope they will also come (to) our country."
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