Israel confirmed Sunday that it has begun deporting Sudanese migrants to Egypt, expelling nearly 50 in an operation overnight.
Egyptian security said late Saturday that Israel sent back 48 Africans, most of them Sudanese, across the border with Egypt, but there was no immediate Israeli confirmation at the time.
Israel said the transfer was the start of the return of thousands of Africans who have infiltrated the country in recent years through the Sinai desert border. Refugees from Sudan's Darfur region will not be returned to Egypt, Israel has said.
"Those who have entered Israel illegally from Egypt will be returned to Egypt," Israeli government spokesman David Baker said. "These people are illegal economic migrants and will be returned."
Israel will allow Sudanese who fled Darfur to stay in Israel or find them a "humanitarian solution," he said, without elaborating.
The unauthorized flow of refugees from Egypt to Israel has been a source of tension between the two countries, with Israel insisting on the right to send them back and Cairo denying any duty to take them.
Israel estimates that some 2,800 people, including 1,160 Sudanese, have crossed illegally from Egypt in recent years. Many have been taken in by kibbutzim, or communal farms, while others have been shunted around the country by authorities unsure how to deal with them.
Israel said in July that Egypt had agreed to accept refugees who had illegally crossed into the Jewish state. But Cairo recently protested following Israeli media reports alleging Egyptian border guards beat to death two Sudanese men in front of Israeli soldiers.
Egypt neither confirmed nor denied the incident, but said afterward it had no duty to take back unauthorized refugees.
In July, Egyptian police shot and killed a Sudanese woman who was trying to cross into Israel, the first confirmed death of its kind.
Israel has often urged Egypt to step up its surveillance of the border to prevent the illegal flow of goods and people. Egypt has increased its efforts recently, with almost daily reports of African refugees arrested by authorities before entering Israel.
Many Sudanese find life difficult in Egypt, a country that struggles to provide jobs and social services for a growing refugee population. Egyptian riot police violently cleared a refugee encampment in central Cairo in 2005, killing nearly 30 people.
Last Mod: 19 Ağustos 2007, 18:02