Former chief rabbi Israel Meir Lau called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday to release the Sudanese refugees languishing in Israeli prisons.
Lau, who had visited the imprisoned refugees in late March, wrote in a letter to the prime minister dated May 21 that "I heard from their mouths the suffering they had endured and their untenable situation, lacking home or country, while the whole world ignored their fateâ€¦. The suffering and distress of the Sudanese refugees, survivors of the genocide in Darfur, who reside in Israeli prisons, should worry us all."
A High Court of Justice ruling last year forced the government to act to move them to better facilities, with over two-thirds now housed in kibbutzim that have opened their doors to them. The main legal hurdle comes from their being citizens of an enemy state (Sudan). 80 are still incarcerated while they are investigated as possible security threats.
"In 36 places in the Torah we are commanded to love the stranger," Lau wrote, urging, "we must not ignore the suffering and distress of other nations, and we must show a special sensitivity to homeless refugees."