Refugees on the way to J'lem
Photo: Herzl Yossef

Sudanese refugees sent to protest in J'lem

In attempt to raise ministers' awareness of refugee problem and prompt action, Beersheba moves Sudanese to capital. Prime minister's aide says responsibility lies with Defense Ministry

About 60 Sudanese refugees arrived at the Rose Garden near the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, after spending the weekend in Beersheba and Rahat.


Beersheba’s municipality decided to move the refugees to Jerusalem, in hopes of making government ministers more aware of the problem.


A few hours after the refugees arrived in Jerusalem, Mayor Uri Lupolianski instructed the Jerusalem Municipality's public health department to send medical crews to the Rose Garden to tend to them.


Lupolianski urged Raanan Dinor, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office to find a solution to the problem. "The State of Israel and the Jewish people out of all people should be sensitive to the suffering of other peoples. We cannot turn into a cruel society," the mayor said.


Eti Cohen of Beersheba’s Social Welfare Department told Ynet, “It’s a shame that the state doesn’t care for the refugees. I received instructions from the municipality to care for them, they feel afraid and helpless because of the uncertainty, but we have no other choice. Maybe this step can advance the solution.”


The municipality already sent about 150 Sudanese refugees to Jerusalem in the past “in order for the state to deal with them, because it’s the state’s job”.


At the time, the State committed to funding the refugees’ stay at a hotel, but has not found a better solution since then.

Refugees getting off of bus in Jerusalem (photo: Haim Zach)


“For over two years, the government has thought that if it buries its head in the sand, the problem will disappear,” said Eitan Schwartz, spokesman of the committee for Darfur refugees.


“Beersheba’s municipality has brought them here so that they can put pressure on the government. It’s very nice of the university students to help with the refugee problem, but it’s very sad that in the State of Israel, it’s the university students who are taking care of it,” Schwartz added.


'In Egypt I would face a death sentence'

Joe Lawrence, one of the refugees who arrived in Jerusalem, said that the first thing he was looking for himself and his family was a little peace.


Asked by reporters if he felt he was being treated negatively by the Israeli authorities, he said that he did not feel anything negative, but that if they decided to return him to Egypt, he would face a death sentence.


Vered Swaid, social affairs advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that the origin of all refugees who have entered Israel would be verified, and that those who did not come from Darfur or southern Sudan would be returned to their countries of origin.


“Israel has a problem with the number of people who arrived here and so it was decided to return them to Egypt. One must remember to look at the big picture," Swaid said.


"The overall responsibility lies with the Defense Ministry and I assume over the next few days a solution will be found," she added.


פרסום ראשון: 07.08.07, 16:24
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