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 spilled.”

“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 Sinai.

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 food.

The commander said he could not grant anyone access to the asylum-seekers for security reasons, nor allow food to be distributed to them.

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.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger