Southern Sudanese beg Israel to accept them as refugees

In letter to PM, representative says Christians from South have been "persecuted" by Islamist regime and are "Israel's allies."

sudanese refugees 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
sudanese refugees 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
During a period in which the Knesset is trying to impose harsh penalties on border infiltrators - including refugees from the genocide in Darfur - another group of Sudanese are lobbying the government for recognition as refugees from a genocide that has killed at least 1.9 million civilians. Majier Pap, a representative of southern Sudanese refugees living in Israel, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asking that Israel "accept, after security vetting, refugees from genocide from southern Sudan, and provide them with the same status that the 500 Darfuris were - rightly - given." "We are South Sudanese, mostly Christians, persecuted by a regime of Muslim fundamentalists, who are bitter enemies of Israel - we are, to all intents and purposes, your allies," he wrote. "We do not doubt the right of Israel to choose who it wants to accept and who not, and your policies towards economic refugees cannot be criticized. We, however, are in a different category." In his letter, Pap addressed a recent Knesset bill that would impose hefty prison sentences on all those who infiltrate the Israel-Egypt border, with especially tough sentences reserved for those coming from enemy states, such as Sudan. "Those who propose the law make no distinction between people who try to come here for economic reasons - to better their material life - and those who come here as a result of genocidal persecution," he wrote. "Hostilities are being renewed now on the borders between North and South Sudan. We cannot go back, and the law now proposed will present us with a choice of jail, deadly persecution in Egypt, or death at the hands of the Sudanese government. Your fear of being swamped is baseless, as the number of southern Sudanese in Egypt is limited, and the possibility of crossing the Sinai is extremely difficult and life-threatening." Fighting between southern Sudanese, who are mostly Christians and the North, which is dominated by the Khartoum-based Islamist government, has continued and observers are concerned that it is escalating, despite of a US-brokered peace agreement in January 2005. The US government estimated that more than two million civilians in the South have been killed under the auspices of the Khartoum government, and the 2002 Sudan Peace Act accused the government of carrying out genocide. An additional four million southern Sudanese - around 80 percent of the region's population - were displaced during the conflict, with at least half a million fleeing to the surrounding countries.