JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli artists and academics have called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent the deportation of refugees who came from South Sudan.
The 400 writers, authors and musicians sent a petition to the prime minister Tuesday asking him to stop the deportation, saying it would expose the refugees, many of them children, " to a raging war, hunger and disease."
Some 700 South Sudanese refugees must leave Israel by the end of the month or be deported, according to the Interior Ministry, which said that since South Sudan became an independent nation in July, refugees from the area no longer require protected status in Israel.
Haaretz reported that the signatories included writers Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, singer Yehudit Ravitz and actors Hanna Maron and Moshe Ivgy.
Tens of thousands of migrants from Africa — asylum seekers and those seeking to better themselves economically — have entered Israeli illegally though Egypt in recent years. Up to 7,000 of the migrants are reported to be from South Sudan.
South Sudanese nationals have been offered about $1,300 and a plane ticket if they leave voluntarily before the March 31 deadline.
Israel recognized South Sudan last July 10, a day after it declared independence from Sudan. The countries established full diplomatic relations two weeks later.