Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Darfur Muslims Seek a Haven in Israel.

There are 220 Sudanese refugees being held in Israeli prison cells, army bases and remote kibbutzes.

IN 2000 Sanka, a 30-year-old Sudanese Muslim, fled his village in Darfur after the infamous Janjawid — Arabs loyal to the Khartoum Government — arrived on horseback with machineguns, killing his father and stealing camels and cattle.

Sanka rode on a tobacco lorry to the town of Niala, where he waited in vain for his family. He then headed east, looking for work, but was rounded up and beaten by the Sudanese police. He scraped together the money for a one-way airfare to Egypt, and he spent the next four years drifting around Cairo and Aswan, until he was arrested in late 2004.

Facing expulsion to Sudan, he bribed his way out of custody and took a bus to the Sinai Desert bordering Israel. He wandered lost for 24 hours, un- til he stumbled across the blue-and-white flag of an Israeli military border post. “I expected to get shot in the head. If that had happened I would have said to them, ‘God bless you’. Everything was so hopeless for me,”.
Sanka was not shot. The Israelis patched him up and held him for a month before attempting to send him back to Egypt. The Egyptians refused to take him. He spent a year in an Israeli prison before being sent to a kibbutz, while his fate was decided. “Sudan is the enemy of Israel. You are a citizen of that country, so we can’t release you,” a judge told him.

Sanka — not his real name — is not alone in his extraordinary five-year odyssey from an Arab state to a Jewish one, and from a country in the grip of one genocide to a nation built on the ashes of another.
He was merely a pioneer, and ever more Sudanese — Muslims and Christians — have followed in his footsteps, desperate to escape the conflicts in Darfur and southern Sudan that have cost more than two million lives.

There are 220 Sudanese refugees being held in Israeli prison cells, army bases and remote kibbutzes. The Israeli Government believes that many more may have entered the country undetected, using Beduin smugglers to take them across the unfenced border. The influx has accelerated sharply since December.