Israel is free to deport unwanted asylum seekers to Uganda, the country’s top court has ruled.
On August 28, 2017, the court also ruled that immigrants who refuse to be deported to Uganda or Rwanda can be detained for not more than two months.
This ruling debunks repeated denials from Uganda government officials of a secretive arrangement with Israel to deport asylum seekers to Kampala.
According to Israeli media reports, Uganda will receive military hardware and agricultural aid in exchange for accepting Israel’s unwanted aliens. The immigrants are mostly from Eritrea and Sudan.
However, in spite of all indications suggesting the deal exists, Uganda government officials have refused to come clean on it.
Obiga Kania, the minister of state for Internal Affairs, said he was not aware of any deportees from Israel being dumped in Uganda.
Margaret Kafeero, the head of public diplomacy, said Uganda doesn’t have an embassy in Israel, so the ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the dark about the arrangement.
However, the former International Affairs minister and now minister of state for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem told The East African in 2013 that “it is true Israel is looking for third host countries to take in unwanted refugees, and Uganda is one of the countries that have been approached for this purpose.”
According to Haaretz, a leading newspaper in Israel, up to 40,000 asylum seekers are to be removed from the country.
The newspaper this week quoted Israeli internal minister Arey Dery as saying that the country was “trying to amend the agreements reached with third countries so that the consent of deportees is no longer required before they are sent to those countries.”
Also, Israel would amend its internal laws to regulate entry into the country. This would allow for indefinite detention of those who refuse to go to Rwanda or Uganda.
The arrangement is that those who voluntarily accept to move to Uganda or Rwanda would receive between $1,500 (Shs 5.4m) and $3,500 (Shs 12.6m), according to media reports.
Uganda has been praised as having one of the most progressive refugee policies in the world. Refugees coming here are given land and are free to seek employment in the country.
South Sudanese refugees alone in Uganda recently passed the one million mark and could go to 1.3 million people by the end of this year, according to aid agencies.
More refugees from Israel means more strain on the country’s scanty resources. However, it is not clear whether those deported from Israel to Uganda are recognized as refugees and qualify for privileges granted to other refugees.
Dery, according to Haaretz, criticized the Israeli Supreme court’s decision of restricting how long asylum seekers can be detained there.
“The court sent us back and forth several times and received the outline of our agreement with third countries, who expressly knew that we were not taking people to airplanes in handcuffs and that people refusing to go would remain under guardianship here until they consented to leave,” he said of the arrangements with Uganda and Rwanda.
Israel has said it will forbid employment of asylum seekers who refuse to leave for a third country.
“We aren’t starving them. It’s not at that level. Illegal migrants cannot work, according to the entire world...,” the director general of Israel Population and Immigration Authority, Prof Shlomo Mor-Yosef, told Haaretz.
“Now there is an option which Israel prefers. No one is starving them. They are given $3,500, a plane ticket and accompaniment to a third country so that they can live there peacefully….”