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Photo: Reuters
African refugees at Israeli-Egyptian border (Archives) Photo: Reuters


400 Eritreans arrive at UN offices in Tel Aviv, seek refugee status

Hundreds of Eritreans who infiltrated Israel through breached Egypt border arrive at UN facilities in Tel Aviv, ask they be recognized as refugees. Interior Ministry, Immigration Administration said to be 'working on joint solution'

Tani Goldstein
Published: 02.17.08, 14:45 / Israel News

The Interior Ministry reported Sunday that 400 Eritrean refugees had arrived at the UN offices in Tel Aviv, announced that they had crossed the border from Egypt into Israel last week and applied for refugee status in Israel.


According to the Yossi Edelstein, director of the Interior Ministry's Population Administration's Foreign Workers' Enforcement Unit, said "IDF forces apprehended them shortly after they had crossed the breached border between Israel and Egypt, but due to a glitch in communication between the IDF and the Shin Bet (internal security service), they were let go, despite the fact that Ketziot Prison in the Negev has 500 places to house them in.


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"I have no idea how they got to Tel Aviv or what they're living on," added Edelstein. "We're looking into what we can do for them, along with the Immigration Administration… Israel is doing all it can to help the refugees, but we can only take in so many."


The 400 Eritrean refugees have already been preceded by hundreds of refugees from Sudan, who infiltrated Israel last week. They choose to come here, said a source in the Interior Ministry, because Israeli is rumored to grant them refugee status.



Diplomatic sources negated the possibility of the UN giving the Eritreans refugee status, due to Israel's limited resources and strong objections. The UN has granted refugee status only to those fleeing the Darfur genocide.


Israel has previously granted protective status to Eritrean refugees, but according to diplomatic sources, the State had notified the UN that those arriving after December 25, 2007 will be considered illegal aliens.


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