Foreign Ministry denies refugee plan report

Foreign Ministry says Israel not looking to pay African states to take Sudanese.

Sudanese refugees 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Sudanese refugees 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Foreign Ministry denied on Thursday an Army Radio report that Jerusalem was attempting to use monetary compensation to convince African states to absorb Sudanese refugees residing in Israel. "The report is completely untrue," a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told the Jerusalem Post. "Army Radio is just making things up." According to the Army Radio report, Israel decided to pay African states to take its Sudanese refugees after determining that maintaining them would be too expensive. The report claimed that the idea emerged in discussions conducted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the issue of African refugees, during which the point was raised that over 10,000 Sudanese illegally reside in Israel today. A quick assessment followed, and it was agreed that in order to allow the refugees to stay, large sums of money would have to be invested in the construction of proper living quarters and in providing essential health care and social services. According to the report, the assessment led participants in the discussions to conclude that the best option would be to try and convince other African states to absorb the refugees by offering them money. The prime minister, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak all approved the idea, the report stated. In the weeks after the decision was made, the Foreign Ministry approached almost every African state with which Israel has diplomatic relations. High-level Israeli envoys were sent to the various countries to meet with presidents and prime ministers and discuss the basic tenets of the plan. According to the report, the finer points - such as the exact sums Israel was willing to pay - have yet to be settled. The report said that as of Thursday, not one African state had expressed enthusiasm over the Israeli proposal. However, some countries did not reject the plan outright and have said they would consider the matter more seriously.