Darfur refugees
Photo: Hertzel Yosef

Darfur refugees fall through the cracks

Police, IDF refuse to take responsibility for Darfur refugees; transfer them to and fro

Sometimes it appears that the Israeli institutions are out of order, lock, stock and barrel. And this is how the story goes…


On Wednesday afternoon, the IDF picked up more than 30 men, women and children, refugees from Sudan, who had been staying in IDF bases. Having decided to pass them on to the responsibility of the internal security ministry they put them on a bus and drove them to the police station in Be'er Sheva.


The police said it was not their responsibility and sent the bus, with the refugees still on it, back to the IDF Southern Command. They said that the police's job was to handle criminals, and these people were not criminals.


"The inability of the IDF to properly close the border with Egypt is what caused this situation. The police have no part in it. The problem and any questions should be referred to the IDF and the interior ministry," the police said.

Looking for a solution (Photo: Hertzel Yosef)


Be'er Sheva Mayor Ya'akov Turner later announced that he had decided to accept Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's request and host the refugees temporarily. The municipality's welfare department will absorb the 24 Sudanese refugees, while the 13 other refugee who are not from Sudan will apparently be arrested.


After the disengagement, the IDF reinforced its troops along the border with Egypt to prevent terrorist and criminal organizations from utilizing new smuggling routes.


Soon after, the forces found that hundreds of Sudanese were entering Israel from the border with Sinai.


The refugees were arrested as soon as they entered the country. The men were sent to Ketziot prison, and the women, children and the sick were sent to military bases for a few days, where they received food and shelter.


Recently, several discussions were held with the IDF and the defense and other ministries, in an attempt to find a systemic solution to the problem.


IDF sources told Ynet that an agreement had been reached that the refugees would be placed under the responsibility of the interior security ministry.


They said that according to the agreement, IDF would transfer the refugees they capture at the border to the police who would transfer them to the immigration police.


"The police are not above the law," said the source. "They too have to implement decisions made by the political ranks that put the responsibility for refugees to the police.


Following this shameful incident, the internal security ministry told Ynet that the immigration police will deal with the people for the time being. In the next few days the prime minister will hold a meeting to define whose responsibility the refugees are, IDF or the police.


Eytan Schwartz, spokesman of the Committee for Advancement of Refugees of Darfur, who was on the bus, told Ynet: "On the very same day that the government decides to transfer $5 million dollars for humanitarian aid in Darfur, it throws them out to the streets."


In a letter to the Interior Minister, MKs Avishay Braverman (Likud) and Gilad Erdan (Labor), chairs of the lobby for the Darfur refugees in the Knesset, demanded that he deal with the matter immediately.


"With no official body responsible for the refugees' wellbeing, they will be thrown out into the streets with no assistance," they wrote. "It is unimaginable that the State of Israel would treat survivors of a massacre who look for refuge within its borders."


Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 05.09.07, 15:56
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