JERUSALEM, Israel -- One hundred and twenty-three South Sudanese migrant workers left Israel on a chartered flight Sunday night, arriving in Juba on Monday morning.
Four South Sudanese officials who flew to Israel to help process the workers' repatriation accompanied the group on the flight.
Since 2006, increasing numbers of Africans have infiltrated Israel's southern border with the Sinai Peninsula and those numbers climbed even higher with the violence that accompanied the so-called Arab spring.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced over the weekend that the deportation program, dubbed "Going Home," would be carried out "with dignity."
"We have a Jewish tradition of treating strangers humanely," Netanyahu told ministers at Sunday morning's cabinet meeting. "And even when we need to deport them from our midst due to the State's desire to control its borders, we must do so humanely and in a manner that finds expression in a restrained and humane manner."
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the South Sudanese make up only a small percentage of the 60,000 African migrants, including 30,000 Eritreans and 15,000 North Sudanese, in Israel.
Last month, Yishai called for holding all illegal migrants in detention centers after four Eritrean and Sudanese men were arrested on suspicion of raping a 19-year-old Israeli in south Tel Aviv.
Since the beginning of the year, an estimated 7,000 Africans infiltrated through the southern border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Israel is working to complete a security fence along the 150-mile border with Egypt by year's end.