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Yad Vashem chairman urges PM to let Darfur refugees stay in Israel
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent

The chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, Avner Shalev, called Sunday on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to allow refugees from the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan to remain Israel.

In a letter to Olmert, Shalev wrote that, “as members of the Jewish people, for whom the memory of the Holocaust burns, we cannot stand by as the refugees from the genocide in Darfur hammer on our doors. The memories of the past and Jewish values compel us to show solidarity with the persecuted.”

Shalev pointed out that during the Holocaust, countries such as Australia, Canada and Britain cited security reasons when they sent Jews escaping the Nazis to detention camps.

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In early May, Holocaust researcher Professor Yehuda Bauer, an academic advisor to Yad Vashem, added his name to a High Court petition brought by the Hotline for Migrant Workers against the Israel Defense Forces Head of Operations Directorate, Brigadier General Gadi Eisencott, who signed an order to expel 31 Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region without giving them the right to make their case.

The High Court of Justice ruled two weeks ago that the state cannot hold Sudanese refugees in administrative detention without judicial review, and ordered it to finalize plans to bring the prisoners before a judge or other judicial authority within 30 days.

The judges’ decision was based on the petition submitted by the Hotline for Migrant Workers on behalf of 50 Sudanese refugees, many from the Darfur region who entered Israel illegally some three months ago.

The state announced during its deliberations that the Justice Ministry is working toward an amendment in the country’s law of infiltration, an emergency statute in effect since the 1950s, in order to add a mechanism to allow judicial review of the arrests of the infiltrators.

The state proposed leaving judicial review in the hands of the IDF southern command prosecution, pending approval and consideration of the law by the Knesset.