CAIRO: Israel appointed an inter-ministerial team Sunday to assist 498 Dafuri refugees they have decided to accept while expelling over 2,000 other refugees back to Egypt.
Some 2,800 refugees have entered Israel from Egypt seeking asylum. Israel had decided to accept the ones from Darfur while sending the others back across the border.
This is subject to an agreement signed by President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wherein Egypt agreed to receive the expelled refugees. A total of 48 refugees were sent back to Egypt last month.
Previously, an Egyptian diplomatic official said that Egypt was under no obligation to readmit refugees that had fled its borders, claiming that the country was “not committed to receiving them.
The latest Israeli government figures released Sunday stated that 150 refugees entered Israel through the Egyptian border in September, down from 900 in July. UNHCR figures differ, placing the number of refugees entering Israel from June to August at 382.
Executive Director of Amera (Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance) Essam Shiha previously told Daily News Egypt that Israel and its UNHCR office had grossly mishandled the affair.
“Israel should have respected international conventions and the UNHCR in Israel should have intervened more forcefully, he said. “Israel is obligated to adhere to article 33 of the 1951 UN Convention [about the status of refugees], he added, “but Israel flaunts all conventions, it is above international law.
The article Shiha referred to states that “No Contracting State shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
Israeli government spokesman David Baker said last month that “those who have entered Israel illegally from Egypt will be returned to Egypt. These people are illegal economic migrants and will be returned.
He added that “they will be returned no matter where they come from. What s happening is we are being flooded, literally by the thousands, and this is a small country.
Earlier this month, Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said, “Israel, with its history, must offer assistance. It can t stand by and shut its eyes. But a quota must be set.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement late last month saying that “Israel has an acute responsibility to carefully monitor its borders . particularly in light of the security situation and concern regarding criminal and terrorist elements. It should be noted, that there is an Al-Qaeda presence in Sudan, and Israel must remain vigilant lest terrorists attempt to infiltrate in the guise of refugees.
Hagga Abbas Harun, 28, from Darfur was shot and killed by Egyptian border police in July as she and 27 others attempted to cross into Israel. Four others were injured in the attack.
An Egyptian official said at the time that Egyptian authorities have the right to use force if refugees attempting to infiltrate the border did not heed warnings to stop.
Shiha said, “It seems they [Egypt] are sending a message to refugees, to dissuade them from attempting to cross the border, “and those who attempt to flee are quite adamant about reaching the border at any cost.
According to UN statistics 1,200 African refuges have entered Israel up until September of this year.
More than 220 Africans – mainly Sudanese refugees from Darfur – have been arrested attempting to cross the border into Israel in July.