Geared up to deport hundreds of African refugees who have infiltrated Israel in recent months, the Defense Ministry is waiting for Cairo to establish a deportation administration that will be responsible for coordinating the refugees' return to Egypt. On the sidelines of the Sharm e-Sheikh summit two weeks ago, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel could begin deporting the some 2,000 refugees - mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe - who have infiltrated Israel via the Sinai Desert back to Egypt and that he would guarantee their safety.
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In follow-up meetings, Egyptian officials promised to do more to prevent refugee infiltrations into Israel. The officials told their Israeli counterparts that Egyptian Border Police would increase patrols along the 250-kilometer border with Israel in an effort to prevent the infiltrations, which sometimes reach 60 to 70 a day.
According to defense officials, however, Israel is still waiting for Mubarak to appoint a point of contact - essentially an Egyptian official who will be responsible for coordinating with the IDF the deportation of the refugees back to Egypt.
"The process is held up," a defense official explained Monday. "We are waiting for Egypt to set up the mechanism so we can begin the deportation process."