Sept 16, 2006 (EL ARISH) — Five members of a Sudanese family from war-torn Darfur were arrested early Saturday before illegally crossing from Egypt to Israel, where they sought asylum, police said.
The refugees — a man, his wife and three children — told police they paid Bedouin smugglers US$2000 dollars to help them sneak into Israel through the Egypt-Gaza border, according to Captain Ali Hamed of the northern Sinai police.
None of the Bedouins was arrested.
The family told police that they were heading to the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tel Aviv to seek asylum, Hamed said.
More than 2 million Sudanese have fled their homes since 2003, when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led government in the capital Khartoum.
Human traffickers smuggle about 200 people from Egypt into Israel each year, according to the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights, which offers free medical treatment to illegal residents and foreign workers.
The U.S. State Department said in a report earlier this year that Israel was not doing enough to stop human trafficking, placing it in the same category as Cambodia, China and Kuwait.
Thousands of foreign workers from countries like the Philippines, Thailand and Romania are in Israel illegally. They are employed by Israelis looking for cheap labor to replace Palestinians now confined to the West Bank and Gaza by stringent travel bans imposed after a series of suicide bombings in recent years.
Egypt has long accused some of the Bedouin tribes in the Sinai Peninsula of smuggling weapons, drugs and people across the border into Israel and the Gaza Strip. Egypt and Israel frequently accuse one another of not doing enough to seal their border and prevent smuggling.