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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: Provisioning Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Provisioning Specialist is required to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Support Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Support Engineer is required to join a well-...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Administrator - Swedish Speaking

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum