When they first began arriving in the country in 2005, Sudan’s war-weary Darfuri refugees posed a serious problem for Israeli immigration authorities.

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When they first began arriving in the country in 2005, Sudan’s war-weary Darfuri refugees posed a serious problem for Israeli immigration authorities. With no real historical or cultural connection to the Jewish state, these animist Africans added yet another layer to Israel’s complex – and controversial – illegal immigration problem.

But unlike the hundreds of thousands of Asians, Eastern European and other African illegals whose fate remains uncertain, the Darfuris were different. Fleeing southern Sudan’s genocidal janjaweed marauders, their plight – not to mention a common Islamic enemy – evoked Israel’s own tenuous history with ethnic-cleansing and regional conflict. So with public sentiment behind him, Israel’s interior minister Meir Shetrit granted citizenship to several hundred Darfuri asylum-seekers in 2007 – much as then prime minister Menachem Begin did for scores of Vietnamese boat people back in 1977.

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