CAIRO: Egypt has deported Sudanese refugees who were returned from Israel on the understanding they would not be expelled to Sudan where they face torture or imprisonment, a security source said on Monday.
Some of the refugees returned from Israel were expelled to Sudan, the source told AFP, referring to 48 Sudanese refugees that Israel sent back to Egypt in August after they illegally entered the Jewish state.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR in Cairo said they had been seeking information on the refugees fate at the highest level of the foreign ministry since they were expelled but had heard nothing.
UNHCR spokeswoman Abeer Etafah said that if it were confirmed that Egypt had deported the refugees to Sudan it would be a serious matter.
It is illegal under international law to deport a refugee to a country where they face torture or arbitrary detention.
A spokeswoman at the Israeli embassy in Cairo said that there was an agreement between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the refugees would not be sent back to Sudan.
The understanding was very clear that Egypt was going to look after these refugees and not send them back to Sudan and let the UNHCR look after them, Shani Cooper-Zubida told AFP.
Sudan, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, has previously called on Egypt to punish any Sudanese expelled from Israel.
Refugees Commissioner Mohammed Ahmed Al-Aghbash said Sudanese were being trafficked into Israel to recruit refugees to implement Zionism agendas against Sudan.
Egyptian authorities should firmly penalize any Sudanese refugees if they were found trying to infiltrate through Egypt into Israel, the semi-official Sudanese Media Centre quoted Aghbash as saying in July.
US-based Human Rights Watch has called on Israel to stop what it called its astounding policy of expelling Sudanese migrants back to Egypt.
Israel should stop summarily expelling Sudanese nationals who enter the country illegally from Egypt and reinstate its policy of allowing them to remain in Israel pending refugee status determination, HRW said.
Human Rights Watch cited reports that Israeli soldiers had witnessed Egyptian border guards killing three Sudanese in August.
HRW said Israel appeared to be in violation of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Israel is a signatory.
Sudanese living in Cairo, even those who are not refugees, regularly complain of prejudice and discrimination. Agence France-Presse