High Court to Decide if Trapped Africans Should Be Granted Entry to Israel

High Court to convene Thursday after NGO petition demands that Barak, Yishai explain why Israel denies 21 Eritrean migrants on the Egyptian border entry to Israel.

An Israeli NGO petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday and demanded that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Interior Minister Eli Yishai clarify why they have been denying 21 Eritrean migrants, who are trapped between the fences on the Israeli-Egyptian border, entry to Israel.

The NGO "We are Refugees" has also asked the High Court that Barak and Yishai explain why Israel denies the migrants food, water and medical assistance. The court will convene Thursday morning to discuss the petition.

For the past six days, 21 Eritrean migrants, among them a 14-year-old boy, are trapped between the fences on the Israeli-Egyptian border and are guarded by IDF infantry troops.

According to the petition, Israel is currently violating both international law and other legal commitments made by Israel. The NGO said the petition was filed out of fear for the migrants' lives in their homeland.

The petition says Israel should decide the migrants' status after granting them entry to the country. It also states that human rights organizations and the UN Refugee Agency claim that the migrants are faced with life-threatening danger in Egypt and that they fear Egypt would deport the migrants back to Eritrea without properly examining the danger they are faced with in their homeland.

"The fact that for all this time the fate of these asylum seekers is under the effective control of the state of Israel requires the supplying of humanitarian aid, as us being the 'good Samaritan,'" the petition said. Were the Eritrean successful to cross the fence, the petition said, they would have been granted temporary protection by Israel's Immigration Authority because of the danger they are faced in their homeland.

Earlier Wednesday, the NGO asked the Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to allow the trapped migrants to enter Israel and receive medical treatment, food and water.

The UN Refugee Agency said Tuesday that Israel violates the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees when dealing with the migrants on the border.

On Wednesday, MK Dov Khenin asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak to intervene immediately, asking them, "What do we want? That they will die on the fence?"

Khenin said that the migrants were subjected to abuse on their journey in Sinai and that a pregnant Eritrean woman had had a miscarriage. "A fence is not a magic solution," Khenin wrote, "it does not annul the obligation to examine the status of those knocking on it."

Some Holocaust survivors were protesting Wednesday in front of the Yad Vashem museum against Yishai and called army authorities to grant the African migrants entry to Israel.

A group of activists tried to bring food Wednesday morning to the trapped Eritreans, but they were intercepted by IDF forces since the area was declared a closed military zone. The activists left the food in hope the soldiers would deliver it to the migrants.