Darfurian refugee in Israel, Abdullah Adam
Photo: Tzafrir Abayov
We shouldn't flog ourselves over Darfur refugees – Olmert
During special Knesset session, PM asks: What can State do with dozens of illegal immigrants?

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed a special Knesset session on the Darfur refugees sneaking into Israel on Wednesday, saying "498 refugees have entered the State of Israel. There's no reason to flog ourselves and preach to ourselves.


"In a State like ours, when dozens of people arrive during one night, what can the State do? Wait behind the border with guest rooms? Hotels? 50 Shin Bet interrogators?" Olmert said.


Some 40 Knesset members submitted a petition demanding that the session be called. Before it began, the prime minister stung a portion of the Knesset members who signed the petition, saying: "I would expect those who signed to bother to arrive for the session."


'This is a matter being treated lightly?'

Olmert stressed that not everyone who illegally enters Israel is a refugee. "To say that

Israel has a humanitarian duty to care for everyone who comes in is an irresponsible exaggeration," he said. "Just in the year 2007, 680 infiltrators entered Israel, but according to the UN's representative to Israel, there are exactly 498 refugees in Israel. In other words, the rest are job seekers, women smugglers, other criminals, or people who have nothing to do with asylum seekers."


Olmert emphasized that Israel is working to help the refugees, adding: "Instead of them being spread out in the streets and turning into a rolling problem between authorities, we said we would set up a facility at the cost of NIS 55 million ($14 million). This is a matter being treated lightly? Of the 498 refugees, 319 have a status allowing them freedom of movement. The rest will also be released according to the law and will receive temporary resident status.


The remainder who are not under care will be cared for according to their concentrations, through the local offices of the Ministry of Interior. Every refugee will receive a booklet in three languages which will outline their exact rights, status, and options."


Olmert said Israel was in touch with various organizations about the issue of infiltrators, adding that the possibility of setting up camps to aid them is being examined.


"If the infiltrators are directed here, they will arrive through a proper route," the prime minister said. "The center for aid for foreign workers at Tel Aviv University met with representatives of the Ministry of Interior with the aim of coordinating care channels for this population. In addition, the possibility of setting up a special fund that will deal with the rehabilitation of the Darfur refugees in Israel is being examined."


פרסום ראשון: 10.17.07, 15:11
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