Eighteen of the 21 Eritrean stuck at the southern border will be sent back to
Egypt while two women and a boy will be allowed to enter the country, Israel
decided on Thursday.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said the
move was accepted at the highest levels and was a humanitarian solution to the
problem. They added that officials were sent to speak to the group of migrants,
who realized that they would not be allowed into Israel.
The two women,
one of whom had suffered a miscarriage, and the 14-year-old boy were on their
way to Saharonim detention center in the Negev, where, under the “Infiltrators
Law” they could be jailed for up to three years.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu praised the move, saying it was one step in the expulsion of illegal
migrants from Israel.
“It is important that everyone understand that
Israel is no longer a destination for infiltrators.
We are determined to
stop the flood of infiltrators that has been here. We built this fence [on the
Sinai border] and it has already lowered the number of infiltrators by 90
percent. We will intensify steps against those who employ illegal infiltrators
and we will continue the effort to return infiltrators to their countries of
origin,” the prime minister said.
Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On called the
state’s decision to turn back 18 of 21 migrants trying to enter the country a
“cynical abandonment” that could lead to “their blood being
“Sending the migrants to Egypt is against international
commitments vis-à-vis refugees,” she said. “No gesture toward the child and the
women, who were allowed to enter the country, can obscure this reckless decision
made by the State of Israel.”
The migrants seemed destined to stay in
limbo at the border after the High Court of Justice postponed a decision on
their status until Sunday.
The court was discussing the petition of a
human rights group calling on the state to let the asylum-seekers enter the
country because they would otherwise face danger from Beduin smugglers in
The state argued that it was under no legal obligation to allow
the migrants entry.
Representatives of the Defense and Interior
ministries told the court they were providing the refugees with needed food,
water and medical aid.
An IDF battalion commander arrived on Thursday
afternoon at the Egyptian border, and told activists and medical workers
gathered on behalf of the 21 asylum-seekers that army medical teams were
monitoring the situation and giving the migrants fluids, but not
The commander said he could not grant anyone access to the
asylum-seekers for security reasons, nor allow food to be distributed to
The activists and medical staff were part of a convoy of
approximately 20 doctors, nurses, medical students and activists who tried to make contact with and check the medical condition of the
migrants on Thursday, before they were turned away.
On Wednesday, the
government issued a statement saying that Israel had no legal obligation to
allow the migrants to enter the country.
“There has been no determination
by any international body according to which Sudanese or Eritrean citizens are
persecuted in Egypt or that their lives are in danger. Therefore, there is no
legal obligation to allow entry into Israel of those who are near the fence,”
the statement read.