Israel to turn away Darfur refugees


Israel said today it would turn away refugees from the wartorn Darfur region of Sudan in an effort to stop the flow of Africans across Israel's southern border with Egypt.

Overnight, Israel expelled to Egypt about 50 Africans who had entered Israel through Egypt's Sinai desert, Israeli government spokesman David Baker said. It was not immediately clear if any of those sent back were from Darfur, he said.

"The policy of returning back anyone who enters Israel illegally will pertain to everyone, including those from Darfur," Baker said.

Israel has until now accepted about 400 refugees from the Darfur region, according to Eytan Schwartz, an advocate for Darfur refugees in Israel. Fighting between ethnic African rebels and pro-government militias in the Western Sudanese region has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million since February 2003.

The refugees are among 1,160 Sudanese and a total of 2,800 Africans who have entered Israel in recent years.