Sixty-three Knesset members have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not
to deport the Sudanese refugees who have been entering Israel
through its border with Egypt.
The petition challenges a previous decision by Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“The refugees who arrived here need protection and shelter. Their absorption as refugees is a moral duty, considering the history of the Jewish people and the values of democracy and humanity,” the petition read.
The petition also said that the refugees arriving in Israel had experienced “unimaginable” horrors, and mentioned the government’s obligation to help according to the United Nations treaty on the status of refugees, which Israel has signed.
Zevulun Orlev of the National Union – NRP party, one of the Knesset members who signed the petition, said he did so because “Jewish morals and Jewish history obligate us to treat refugees in peril with the utmost sensitivity”.
“Our history as a nation that was persecuted during the Holocaust obligates us to try and help the refugees,” he said.
Knesset members who signed the petition suggested that Israel serve as a temporary asylum, until the refugees could be transferred to other countries in a safe and organized fashion.
“The State of Israel has to do all in its power to aid the Darfur refugees, because they’ve been through a terrible massacre, and returning them to were they’ve fled from could cost them their lives,” said Knesset Member Yuli Edelstein (Likud).
Edelstein added that aid should be given to Darfur’s refugees only, because Israel “should not be a refuge for hundreds of thousands of third world refugees”.
Ministers Rafi Eitan and Raleb Majadele also signed the petition, which was initiated by a group of university students.
Organizations acting on behalf of the refugees claim that sending them back to Egypt would put them in immediate danger. Four Sudanese refugees, who did not manage to cross the border into Israel, were killed by Egyptian soldiers on Thursday.