There is a disappointing silence by Africans on Israel’s decision to deport nearly 40,000 African migrants who have been left with no choice but prison or deportation to Uganda or Rwanda.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited African leaders this year and among the reasons are to find a hub for the rejected asylum seekers mainly from Sudan and Eritrea where they are suffering from political and social instability.
Uganda and Rwanda are reported to be the only countries that have agreed to take in the 27,500 Eritreans and 7,800 Sudanese who are seeking to start a living in Israel, a region that accommodated thousands of Jews who faced persecution during the horrible Nazi era.
The United Nations migration agency UNHCR said 4,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers were voluntarily relocated to Rwanda and Uganda between 2013 and 2017.
The rest have refused to leave and the Israeli Prime Minister who described the 38,043 African migrants as “infiltrators” said the country has signed international agreements to move the migrants “without their consent” to the recipient countries.
The Public Security Ministry said in a statement that “the infiltrators will have the option to be imprisoned or leave the country.”
These sentiments stoked outrage and unsuccessful legal battles against the plan by Israeli human rights advocates.
The Israeli government approved a bill on Monday backing the expulsion of the asylum seekers or “imprisonment if they violate the geographical limitations imposed on them,” reports Israeli news portal Haaretz.
The decision raised serious human rights concerns especially when details of the plan have not been disclosed including the mention of the recipient countries.
Netanyahu visited Kenya last month and met with East African leaders reportedly to seal the deal of returning the refugees without their consent to Rwanda and Uganda in the coming weeks.
Haaretz reported that the recipient countries will be paid $5,000 for each deportee while each asylum seeker will receive $3,500 and a free flight out of the country.
The murky details prompted the United Nations refugee agency to express concern that the asylum seekers have not found a durable solution to their plight and they may subsequently attempt moving within Africa or to Europe.
“As party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Israel has legal obligations to protect refugees and other persons in need of international protection,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk.
Rwanda and Uganda have not made any statement on the hosting of refugees and what measures they have put in place to protect their rights.
It is disappointing to note that since 2009, only eight Eritreans and two Sudanese have been recognized as refugees in Israel. Another 200 Sudanese from Darfur were recently granted humanitarian status.
Israel’s refusal to host these refugees who have been in detention centres is a disservice to humanity. Rwanda and Uganda’s reported agreement to receive them offered the Israelis a reason to deport them.
Why are other African countries not receiving them despite the huge sums of money attached? What is in it for Uganda and Rwanda? Why is the African Union not fighting for the asylum seekers who are forcefully being evacuated from Israel? These are the questions we need answers to.
Uganda is hosting the largest number of refugees in the world while Rwanda has offered to host 30,000 African migrants trapped in Libya. Their humanitarian services for the displaced are worth celebrating, but not the hosting of asylum seekers in developed countries like Israel.
What if other countries in the Western world decided to do same, is that the kind of world we want? Africans should not be silent about this, it can be you someday. We need to demand the best treatment in whatever situation we find ourselves.
This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on face2faceafrica.com