Israel, which was founded as a refuge for Jewish victims of oppression, will not remain indifferent to the suffering of others. Israel has, on several occasions, expressed shock and profound concern regarding the atrocities and ensuing humanitarian situation in the Darfur region.
Israel is committed to working with the international community to find appropriate humanitarian solutions and actively participate in efforts to aid victims of the crisis.
Israel has introduced several relief programs for Darfur refugees in Africa, such as providing medical assistance to refugees at Kakuma Camp in Kenya, donation to an educational program for children from Darfur in refugee camps in Chad, and is preparing to send products and equipment to the refugees on the ground in coordination with the United Nations. The donation will include water purification systems, medical equipment and medications.
As part of Israel’s moral commitment to the victims of the Darfur crisis, the government of Israel decided to grant refuge to a group of 500 asylum seekers who are already in the country. This is, in comparative terms to other states, a significant step considering Israel’s size, population and resources.
Regarding the infiltrators from Africa that have reached Israel by illegally crossing the border from Egypt, they have for the most part been motivated by economic concerns and are seeking employment in Israel. It has become apparent that this flow of infiltration to Israel is by no means made up solely of Darfurians, but primarily by several African nationalities (including Sudanese) that are seeking to better their situation.
Some of the Sudanese who arrived in Israel have already been recognized as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cairo and were granted status by the Egyptian authorities.
It is equally clear that Israel has an acute responsibility to carefully monitor its borders and prevent the illegal flow of persons into the country, particularly in light of the security situation and concern regarding criminal and terrorist elements. It should be noted, that there is an Al-Qaeda presence in Sudan, and Israel must remain vigilant lest terrorists attempt to infiltrate in the guise of refugees.
Regarding individuals from Sudan, and specifically the Darfur region, it must be noted that Israel does not share a border with Sudan, a country which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and maintains a formal state of war with it. Those seeking to enter Israel have already crossed into Egypt, and therefore, the proximate cause for their fleeing Darfur no longer exists, and Egypt - which is their first country of refuge, and a signatory to the Convention relating to the status of refugees, 1951 - is responsible for their safety.
The Israeli government is formulating a new procedure to ensure the cooperation of the Egyptian authorities in obtaining assurances that those returned will not be sent back to Sudan. They will be given a hearing prior to their return to the Egyptian authorities to ascertain their origins and status, and to ensure that their return does not put them at risk.
While mindful of our commitments as a sovereign state, Israel cannot be the sole provider of a solution to this complicated issue. We are more than willing to do our part in cooperation with the international community on a multilateral basis.