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Sudanese Refugees in prison in Israel

PHR-Israel: Release the Sudanese Refugees from Jail, Grant them Medical Care

They escaped rape and murder- and now they are in prison in Israel.

Currently, dozens of Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region are in jail in Israel. These refugees escaped from the horrible conflict in their region and thought they would find refugee in Israel. They were arrested and are, as stated, being held in jail, though they committed no crime. Israel is morally obligated to grant these refugees a humanitarian refugee status and to supply them with protection, shelter and medical aid, including mental health considering that some of them have undergone difficult traumatic experiences.

Since 2003, a terrible war has been taken place in the Darfur region- the world is a witness to the extreme human rights abuses and the intentional harm done to civilians. According to international human rights groups these amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The refugees that arrived in Israel are only a minor fraction of the overall number of refugees- more than two million people have fled for fear of losing their lives, some to other area in Sudan, some to neighboring Chad and a small section to other countries. Tens of thousands have already been killed, thousands of women have been raped.

Israel should not return these refugees- men, women and children- back to their homeland since their lives are clearly in danger. Also, it is forbidden to continue to hold them in custody. Therefore, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel wrote today to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Moshe Katzav asking to release the prisoners immediately and to grant them humanitarian refugee status. In addition, the organization is asking from the Ministry of Health to grant them medical care for those in need, including mental health care. The state should give this both now when they are in prison as well as after their release, in accordance with the medical need.

This is the moral and historical obligation of the state of Israel to offer aid to refugees. Menahem Begin, when he, as prime minister, granted refugee to the Vietnamese “boat people” in 1977, said: “It is natural for us to grant you refuge in our country, as this is our Jewish-Humanistic tradition”.

In 2003, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Legal Clinic at Tel Aviv University published a report regarding the problems refugees face in Israel. In that report the organizations listed specific recommendations regarding the treatment of refugees, including humanitarian refugees. In the long term, the state should implement the recommendations, and in the short term it should grant proper refuge to the Sudanese refugees.

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