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Egypt to limit tourism from Africa?  Aug 20, 2008

Egypt is looking into the possibility to reduce the number of tourists arriving at the Sinai peninsula, after learning that a large number of those infiltrating into Israel from Sinai took advantage of this route to approach the border.

This information was revealed during a recent visit by Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's military-political department, to Cairo. The issue is expected to be discussed during a special meeting at the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday afternoon.

Israel seeks to stop the infiltration phenomenon, after learning of an entire industry in African countries and in Egypt aimed at helping refugees enter Israel in a bid to improve their living conditions.

Israeli officials plans to tell the government on Wednesday that not enough is being done to battle the ongoing phenomenon, despite certain efforts exerted by Israel and Egypt.

The current situation testifies to the fact that in practice, despite the Defense Ministry's declaration, the building of a defined obstacle in the middle of the border with Egypt, leaving the main arena for infiltrations into Israel breached.

Israel has also failed in its efforts to locate an African country which would take in the thousands of infiltrators who have entered Israel so far, in exchange for payment.

So far, a solution has only been found for several hundreds of Darfur refugees absorbed in Israel for humanitarian reasons. The remaining thousands of infiltrators are held in detention facilities or walking about the country without a defined status.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak will fly to Egypt next Tuesday for meetings with President Hosni Mubarak and Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. In addition to the talks on the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the efforts to reach a deal securing the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Barak plans to discuss the need to hand African refugees seized on the border back to Egypt.

The defense minister is expected to praise the Egyptians for the efforts taken so far, but also to raise additional ways to stop the ongoing infiltration.

Wednesday's discussion at the Prime Minister's Office is expected to be attended by legal officials and representatives of the police, Israel Prison Service, the IDF, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.

However, senior sources involved in the infiltration problem claim that this discussion as well will not solve the problem.

"Someone must bang on the table, particularly regarding our internal problems – like the fence, the detention and the need to boost the IDF's activity. We mainly have to take care of money and means. Talks don’t stop infiltrators looking for economic refuge in Israel," said a senior official who expressed his frustration over the current situation.

Egypt to limit tourism from Africa?
Nigerians on Israel-Egypt border / Photo: Reuters

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