Associated Press Writer
EL-ARISH: Border guards on Saturday arrested six Sudanese, one Somalian and one Eritrean as they were trying to illegally cross from Egypt into Israel, a police official said.
The Sudanese men, who were from the war-torn Darfur region, were attempting to enter Israel in an effort to seek political asylum there, the police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The Somalian and Eritrean men wanted to cross the border for job opportunities in Israel, the official said.
The eight men, who were all in their 20s, paid thousands of dollars to human traffickers in the central Sinai Peninsula to help them cross, the official said. After their arrests, the eight were taken to Cairo in order to deport them to their home countries, according to the official.
Egyptian authorities have long accused Sinai inhabitants of smuggling weapons, drugs and people across the border into Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Human traffickers smuggle about 200 people from Egypt into Israel each year, according to the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights.
Many Sudanese refugees find life difficult in Egypt, a country that struggles to provide jobs and social services for a growing refugee population. Egyptian riot police violently cleared a refugee encampment in central Cairo in 2005, killing nearly 30 people.
Sudan has seen an exodus of refugees in the past several years as a result of fighting in the western region of Darfur between ethnic African rebels and the pro-government janjaweed militia. Since the conflict began in 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million chased from their homes. -AP