Israel urged to help Eritrean refugees stuck at desert border

Medics sending team to border fence amid claims migrants were left for six days with no food

Jerusalem

Volunteer medics will travel to the Israel border with Egypt this morning in an attempt to persuade the Israeli authorities to allow in up to 20 Eritrean migrants who they say have been stranded in blistering desert heat for six days without food.

The Eritreans, said to include two women and a teenager, have bunched under a makeshift plastic sun visor, on the far side of the new border fence built by Israel as part of its now toughened policy of preventing African migrants from entering its territory. Israel's military, which says it is passing water to the asylum seekers through the fence, has sealed off the area and activists who tried to reach the area on Tuesday to bring them food say were stopped from meeting the migrants. They did, however, say the troops had promised to pass on the food.

Eli Yishai, Israel's Interior minister, who has taken a tough line on migrants, insisting on a round-up of mainly Sudanese and Eritrean entrants, said in an Army Radio interview that "it is hardest for me of everyone to see these pictures [of the stranded migrants]" but made it clear he did not intend to allow them in. "If there were no fence there, and we were not determined, then that number would become 1 million people," he said.

The fence is part of a nearly completed 125-mile border barrier intended to keep African migrants out, and also to protect Israel from militants from the Sinai desert launching cross-border attacks.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR), which is sending a delegation to the border today, said: "As doctors and human rights advocates, we cannot stand idly by. We call upon the State of Israel to uphold basic human dignity and to act according to its legal obligations by allowing the asylum seekers refuge and protection in Israel". PHR also pointed out that there had been "numerous cases" in its refugee medical clinic of asylum seekers who had undergone "torture, abuse and rape" on their way through the Sinai desert to Israel, and that many also feared for their safety if handed over to the Egyptian authorities.

Israel has embarked on a tough new policy, including detentions, designed to stem the flow across the Egyptian border of African migrants – around 70,000 of whom are believed to be in the country – which accelerated after 20 Sudanese asylum seekers were killed during a 2005 demonstration in Cairo.

The authorities this year began deporting South Sudanese migrants on the grounds that the new country was safe enough to return to. But those from Sudan itself cannot be sent back to their home countries under international conventions because of their bad human rights records, which in Eritrea includes long-term enforced military service.

Associated Press yesterday quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying that no "international body" had determined that Sudanese or Eritreans would be persecuted in Egypt and that Israel had "no legal obligation" to let them in. But William Tall, the representative in Israel of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said Israel should allow the group to enter and examine their claims to be genuine refugees.

"These people are expressing a fear to be returned," said Mr Tall. "They [Israel] can't deny them access to [its] territory."

Peace hopes are fading, warn Palestinians

Palestinian leaders have issued their gravest warning yet that the prospects for peace between Israel and a new state of Palestine are fast diminishing.

The PLO Executive Committee, the highest Palestinian decision-making body, said after meeting in Ramallah that diplomacy has "entered an unprecedented dangerous phase that threatens, in a new way and in the near future, the two-state solution".

Officials said Israel's emphasis on peace talks to solve the outstanding issues was a "cover- up" for increased settlement activity in the West Bank. Hanan Ashrawi, of the PLO committee, accused Israel of being "in a mad race against time to... destroy the two-state solution". But Mark Regev, an Israeli spokesman, said: "The reason for the impasse in the peace process is the Palestinian decision to boycott peace negotiations."

Matthew Kalman

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?