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Safia A., Israel, “My husband was killed in Darfur in an attack on aid workers”

Safia A., 21, and her son John, 2, fled conflict in south Sudan to come to Israel, via Egypt.
(Tamar Dressler/IRIN)

Since the beginning of 2007 nearly 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Africa, have illegally crossed the border from Egypt into Israel. The vast majority of the escapees are from Sudan.

One such refugee, Safia A., aged 21, originally from South Sudan, now lives on the Kerem Shalom kibbutz near the Egypt-Israel border. She was issued a deportation notice last month.

"I left my home town not far from Juba, some three and a half years ago. We moved to Khartoum, where I worked for an aid organisation and so did my husband.

"He was killed in Darfur in an attack on aid workers last year.

"Life then became extremely hard for me in Sudan as a young widow. I managed to get to Cairo… but life there was unbearable as a single African woman.

"I saw no future for my son, John, who is just coming up to two. No chance for education. Education is very important to me.

More on Sudanese refugees in Israel
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 Government to turn back refugees at border
 Government reverts to detention policy for Sudanese refugees

 New wave of Sudanese refugees faces uncertain future

 Israeli NGOs strive to release jailed refugees


"About six weeks ago I made the journey across the Sinai desert with a large group of Sudanese refugees from Cairo. I knew it was a dangerous journey but I had no choice.

"We managed to cross safely and [after being arrested] were transferred by the [Israeli] army to Beersheba where we were hosted by volunteers in a hotel, then we were moved to this kibbutz.

“The people here are very nice and try to help us but I'm frightened. There are explosions at night from the nearby border [with the Gaza Strip]. We were told to lock the doors when this happens and stay in the one room that serves as a shelter in the apartment.

"We [refugees] are five women and five young children here. Three of the women are pregnant.

"It's very frightening and stressful. I dread night time and pray that it will be a quiet night.

"I don't know what the future holds for me and my son. I want to stay in Israel and find work here. I still haven't got my papers from the UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] - only a deportation notice from the [Israeli immigration authorities]. But I hope I will not be deported."

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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