Gov`t to Set Up Tent City for Sudanese Refugees Near Negev Prison

Sudan: Israel staged refugee crisis to tarnish our image, influx to Israel is manufactured; threatens action against repatriated asylum seekers.

The Prisons Service and Public Security Ministry agreed Monday to the establishment of a tent encampment in the Negev to house refugees from Africa, most of them Sudanese fleeing the fighting in the region.

According to the deal reached by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Prisons Service representative Benny Kaniak, the tent city will be set up close to Ketziot Prison in the Negev.

Ranny Pallak, director general of the Interior Ministry, will hold a meeting on Monday in order to set a timetable for the project.

The municipality of Be'er Sheva sent 54 refugees on Sunday to Jerusalem, in protest of the government's inaction in dealing with the growing number of refugees amassing in the southern city. The government, in turn, sent them back after the the Prime Minister's Office stated it would not take responsibility for the welfare of the asylum seekers.

The Jewish Agency stepped in and said that it would fund accomodation for the 54 refugees near Sderot for ten days. Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski called the move a "humanitarian act of aid for people in need."

The PMO said Sunday that deportation to Egypt is the state's only solution for the African refugees and foreign workers that infiltrated from Egypt, even though some of them are refugees who fled persecution in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.

As southern municipalities and the government quarrel over who should assume responsibility for the growing number of refugees, other groups and ordinary citizens are stepping in.

Local Jerusalem residents brought food for the refugees, as did members of Mair Panim, a philanthropic organization, and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski instructed medical teams and social workers to help the refugees. University students in Be'er Sheva have also been bringing food and searching for housing and employment for the asylum seekers.

According to the PMO, the deportation to Egypt has been delayed so far only because a full list of the refugees has not been compiled. The government has repeatedly stressed that it would not provide housing, work or an encampment for the refugees, in order to send the message that they will not be absorbed by Israel.

The Be'er Sheva municipality has evacuated dozens of refugees from the Naot Midbar hotel in the city after it announced on Sunday that all 180 refugees in the city will be evacuated. City officials said they cannot continue to fund housing for the refugees, which they say has cost the city thus far some NIS 500,000.

Meanwhile, Sudan's Interior Minister Al-Zubair Bashir Taha was quoted Monday as saying Israel is encouraging his country's citizens to emigrate to Israel to tarnish Khartoum's image.

Israel Radio reported Bashir Taha dubbed the refugee crisis a "melodrama" manufactured by Israel, and threatened legal action against expatriated citizens who attempted to enter Israel.

"It's not clear where they're trying to reach, whether they want to continue from Israel to Europe or America. They know nothing about Israel," he said.

He said that some 3,000 Sudanese nationals try to reach Israel annually, of which 30 percent originate from the restive Darfur region, 40 percent come the predominantly Christian south and the rest from the mountainous Nubian areas in the north.