De­por­ta­tion of Africans to re­gional states il­le­gal

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional terms deals be­tween “third coun­tries” and Is­rael il­le­gal, against right for refugee sta­tus

The East African - - NEWS - A JOINT RE­PORT The Eastafrican

The de­por­ta­tion of African mi­grants to Rwanda or Uganda would not meet in­ter­na­tional law re­quire­ments, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has warned, as the Supreme Court in Is­rael put on hold planned repa­tri­a­tions, which were sched­uled for April 1.

The hu­man-rights watch­dog warns that the agree­ments be­tween “third coun­tries” and Is­rael are il­le­gal in na­ture as they go against the right for refugee sta­tus for over 40,000 African mi­grants who are un­wanted in Is­rael.

“The agree­ments be­tween Is­rael and the un­named African coun­tries are il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law as they vi­o­late the pro­hi­bi­tion of non-re­foule­ment. It pro­hibits the trans­fer of a per­son to a place where they would be at real risk of per­se­cu­tion and other se­ri­ous hu­man-rights vi­o­la­tions, or where they would not be pro­tected against such a trans­fer later,” a state­ment is­sued by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional reads.

The watch­dog backs a de­ci­sion by the Is­raeli Supreme Court to halt the de­por­ta­tion, say­ing that the govern­ment must re­veal the con­tent of the agree­ment be­tween Is­rael and the third coun­tries.

Rwanda and Uganda have been named as the third coun­tries in ques­tion, but both deny the ex­is­tence of an agree­ment. Rwanda has said it is will­ing to ac­cept refugees de­ported from Is­rael, but only if the process meets in­ter­na­tional law re­quire­ments.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said the se­cret na­ture of the agree­ments de­nies asy­lum­seek­ers le­gal pro­tec­tion or ac­cess to le­gal re­course.

Based on in­ter­views with refugees pre­vi­ously de­ported to Rwanda and Uganda, the rights watch­dog said there is no proof that the refugees will be ac­corded ba­sic rights such as shel­ter or jobs.

Philip Luther, the Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s Mid­dle East Re­search and Ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor, said the fail­ure by Is­rael or re­cip­i­ent coun­tries to pro­vide de­tails of the ar­range­ment to re­set­tle the mi­grants puts their lives in a pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion.

“This pol­icy has put the asy­lum-seek­ers in an ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion as they are ex­posed to the risk of be­ing sent back to their coun­try of ori­gin and can­not hold the Is­raeli govern­ment, or the govern­ment of the third coun­try to ac­count,” said Mr Luther.

“We have doc­u­mented sev­eral cases of asy­lum-seek­ers de­ported from Is­rael who were promised res­i­dency and work per­mits in Uganda and Rwanda, only to find that none of this was avail­able upon ar­rival in the new coun­try,” he said.

Watch­dogs and refugee agen­cies are pil­ing pres­sure on the Is­rael govern­ment to ac­cord the African mi­grants refugee sta­tus but Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said Africans in his coun­try are in­fil­tra­tors and not asy­lum seek­ers.

Is­rael has re­fused to ad­mit the mi­grants as refugees and in­sists they should leave or risk be­ing jailed for good. Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said that which­ever way the de­por­ta­tions hap­pen, they will not meet in­ter­na­tional guide­lines and con­ven­tions on refugees.

Last week, over 25,000 African mi­grants mainly from Su­dan and Eritrea took part in protests against the planned de­por­ta­tions.

The govern­ment is sched­uled to file its re­sponse to the court pe­ti­tion this week. How­ever re­ports from Is­rael show that plans to de­port the refugees are in ad­vanced stages.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said that the op­tions pro­vided by Is­rael such as giv­ing mi­grants who agree to be de­ported vol­un­tar­ily $3,500 and a ticket to their coun­try of ori­gin or a “third coun­try” while those who refuse face jail, go against the prin­ci­ples of pro­tect­ing refugees and asy­lum seek­ers.

Ef­forts to get a com­ment from the Rwan­dan govern­ment or to iden­tify where the mi­grants will be re­set­tled were fu­tile as govern­ment of­fi­cials re­mained tight-lipped on the mat­ter.

Pic­ture: File

Mi­grants, pri­mar­ily from Eritrea and Su­dan, hold protests in Tel Aviv over an Is­raeli govern­ment plan to de­port over 40,000 African mi­grants.

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