Israel has confirmed plans to begin deporting more than 50,000 African migrants via Uganda.
Israeli officials announced plans to soon begin deporting the migrants from Eritrea and Sudan back to Africa through Uganda, according to the Guardian.
Israel regards most of the Africans as illegal visitors in search of jobs, and largely rejects the position of human rights groups that many fled their countries in search of political asylum, the report said.
A statement late on Thursday from Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Israel would soon begin a staged process of deporting the migrants, most of whom have crossed the border with Egypt since 2006.
Sa’ar said an agreement had been reached with Uganda to absorb the “infiltrators,” who would soon be urged “to leave of their own free will.”
Sa’ar said the prime minister’s special envoy, Hagai Hadas, had obtained Uganda’s consent, Haaretz reported.
The chairwoman of the Israeli parliament’s committee on foreign workers, Michal Rozin, speaking by phone, said there were “rumors” that Uganda may have agreed to the arrangement in exchange for a deal for money and weapons.
A violation of human rights
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According to Haaretz, Knesset Member Michal Rosin (Meretz) leveled criticism at the plan.
“The interior minister’s comments expose the government’s true intention: to transfer all asylum seekers in Israel to an unknown third country, the agreement with which is classified,” she said.
“There is no such thing as voluntary deportation when the alternative is the threat of jail and persecution by the authorities,” she added. “As a country that has signed the U.N. convention on refugees, it is our duty to make sure we are not forcing asylum seekers to return to danger zones.”
Human rights groups in Israel said on Monday that the campaign is in violation of United Nations policy.
Lawyers for the Hotline for Migrant Workers sent a letter to the Justice Ministry, documenting alleged abuses by Interior Ministry employees of the return policy.
In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Dina Silber, attorneys Asaf Weitzen and Nimrod Avigal claimed that jailed migrants are being told they will not be granted refugee status in Israel and will remain in custody unless they sign the forms consenting to leave the country, Haaretz reported.