Israel will no longer allow Sudanese migrants who enter its territory illegally to stay.
The Olmert government decided Sunday to grant asylum to around 500 refugees from the Darfur genocide who had crossed into Israel from neighboring Egypt in recent months.
But with the total number of illegal Sudanese migrants approaching the thousands and including many who came to Israel in search of work rather than asylum, the government said it was instituting a mandatory deportation policy.
The first group of deportees, numbering around 50, was sent back into Egyptian territory late Saturday. Haaretz reported that it included refugees from Darfur.
The Israeli decision drew criticism from human rights groups which argued that the Jewish state, founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, has a moral obligation to take in those fleeing genocide.