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Last Updated: Monday, 20 August 2007, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Israel turns away Darfur refugees
Sudanese refugee family surrounded by Israeli soldiers after crossing illegally from Egypt into Israel (20 August)
More than two million have been displaced in Darfur since 2003
Israel will in future turn away all illegal entrants from Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur, a top official says.

The policy applies to new arrivals only, while some 500 people from Darfur already in Israel will be permitted to stay for "humanitarian reasons".

Israel is struggling to stem the flow of Africans entering the country via its southern border with Egypt.

Overnight, Israel handed 48 Sudanese people back to Egypt, according to Egyptian security officials.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Egypt accepted the refugees for "very pressing humanitarian reasons" but such a move "would not be repeated again".

At least 200,000 people are believed to have died and more than two million displaced in Darfur since fighting broke out in 2003 between rebels and pro-government militias.

Prospects of work

Israeli spokesman David Baker said on Sunday: "The policy of returning back anyone who enters Israel illegally will pertain to everyone, including those from Darfur."

A Sudanese refugee in Israel
As many as 50 asylum seekers arrive in Israel a day, the UN says
Last month, Israel's interior ministry said a limited number of Darfuris would be allowed to remain in Israel as it was "clear that they have suffered the most".

As many as 50 asylum seekers arrive in Israel each day, lured by the prospect of employment, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates.

Israel estimates that 2,800 people have entered the country illegally in recent years - nearly all were from Africa, including 1,160 from Sudan.

However, some critics have said that Israel, which was created after the Nazi persecution of the Jews during WWII, is morally obliged to offer sanctuary to people fleeing persecution.

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