Meretz youth protest treatment of Sudan refugees

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 |  by Staff Writer
Several members of the Meretz Youth movement protested outside the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem yesterday over what they said was unfair treatment of refugees from Darfur by Israel.

The demonstrators chose Holocaust Memorial Day to voice their protest, saying that Israel should be the first country to welcome the refugees. The protestors alleged that Israel must keep its doors open to the Sudanese refugees, despite the fact that the nations have no diplomatic relations.

Several Christian Sudanese have fled persecution in the Muslim nation and many have sought refuge in Israel, after illegally crossing the border. Male refugees are imprisoned, while the women and children eventually find themselves in shelters or other facilities.

Police officials from the Negev region, where the Sudanese cross into Israel, say the refugees are the army's responsibility, but the Immigration Administration blames the army for not returning the refugees to Egyptian authorities.

However the Committee for Advancement of Refugees from Darfur says sending the refugees back to Egypt is in violation of the Geneva Convention and would probably result in deportation of the refugees and possibly death.

"Only yesterday (Sunday) Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during the ceremony at Yad Vashem that we must uproot any shred of racism," Meretz Youth chairman Uri Zacki said. “Israel cannot hide behind the screens of diplomacy and must allow the refugees to enter."

He said that the refugees are considered illegal residents and "are being held like prisoners even though their only crime is that they want to live. They should be welcomed with open arms."

Israel's kibbutzim and moshavim and Messianic congregations have absorbed some 155 Sudanese refugees so far.

"The Jewish nation should be the first set an example for humane treatment of refugees who flee the genocide in their country," Kibbutz Movement member Gavri Bar-Gil said.

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