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Asylum seekers from Israel allowed to relocate to Uganda

African migrants and Israelis demonstrate in Tel Aviv against the Israeli government’s policy to forcibly deport asylum seekers, April 9, 2018. Credit JACK GUEZ/AFP

Hundreds of African migrants in Israel will be resettled to Uganda after government officials positively considered the request made by the State of Israel working with other refugees’ managing organisations.

This was revealed when the state minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru addressed the media on Friday about the status of refugees in Uganda.

In January 2018, Israel approved a plan – later trashed by court – that asked asylum seekers to choose between indefinite detention in an Israeli prison or deportation to a third country in Africa.

According to the scheme, asylum seekers were to receive a plane ticket and up to $3,500 for leaving, however, many are choosing to stay in Israel, rather than risk returning to Africa.

Many of the asylum seekers come from war-ravaged Eritrea and Sudan, however, according to local sources, Israel does not recognise the majority as refugees, claiming that they are economic migrants or “illegal infiltrators”.

“The State of Israel working with other refugees’ managing organisations has requested Uganda to allow about 500 Eritreans and Sudanese refugees to relocate to Uganda. The Government and Ministry are positively considering the request,” Mr Musa Ecweru said.

“We already have millions of refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia so the few from Israel won’t be a problem to Uganda as a third party country,” he added.

Mr Ecweru disputed claims that countries give Uganda money whenever it accepts refugees to come in.

“It is false. In fact, we are the ones who spend on these refugees,” he said. “We are slow but very sure on the issue of refugees that we host.”

Mr Ecweru explained that the asylum seeking families will be recognized and verification done at the Ministry. The Population, Immigration and Border Authority issues deportees documents bearing the Ugandan Interior Ministry insignia.

“Some refugees come to Uganda to in search for their families. The reason some of these refugees come is because there’s a general perception that they have kins that will welcome them warmly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Israel newspaper, Haaretz reported April 13 that Uganda says its supposedly official documents that Israel gives departing asylum seekers are “complete fakes.”

Officials in the Ugandan president’s office told the newspaper they are forgeries “bearing no resemblance to any document our government issues.”

In recorded conversations Haaretz reportedly obtained, Robert Kanuma, an immigration official in charge of border control in Entebbe Airport, is heard denying the existence of such a document.

“Nobody wrote that document. It’s forged, completely forged,” Kanuma says in the recordings. He also tries to read who signed the document, but the signature is illegible.

Asylum seekers who were “willingly deported” to Uganda and Rwanda in the past have told The Times of Israel they faced serious danger and even imprisonment after arriving in Africa without proper documents, and were not allowed to stay in Rwanda but forced to cross the border illegally to other countries.

Immigration authority figures show that in the past three and a half years some 1,750 people left Isreal for Uganda – 485 in 2015, 506 in 2016, and 630 in 2017. This year 128 people left for Uganda so far, according to Haaretz.

By Paul W Dennis.

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