Amnesty International has said the Israeli government has backtracked on her earlier commitment not to forcefully deport African-Asylum seekers.
The global human rights body revelations are contained in a report titled ‘Forced and Unlawful: Israel’s Deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum-Seekers to Uganda.’
Amnesty International wants the practice ended.
Last year Israel announced that it had abandoned its plans to forcibly deport African migrants who entered the country, after failing to find a willing country to take them in.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had been working on an arrangement to expel thousands of mostly Eritrean and Sudanese men who had crossed into Israel through Egypt’s Sinai desert. The migrants and rights groups argued that they were seeking asylum and were fleeing war and persecution.
The government claimed they were job seekers and that it has every right to protect its borders.
In October 2017, Israel announced that it would start deporting Eritrean and Sudanese nationals to an unnamed “third country” in Africa that had agreed to receive them, widely reported to be Uganda and Rwanda.
However, the Israeli government was unable to confirm which countries had agreed to cooperate in deportation agreements and the Supreme Court ordered the suspension of all deportations of Sudanese and Eritrean nationals. However, “voluntary” transfers of these nationals, which Israel has been carrying out since 2013, have continued to Uganda; Amnesty International reported.
“Amnesty International has documented transfers that do not meet standards for voluntariness and are cruel and illegal,” the statement adds.
Once in Uganda, the deported asylum-seekers interviewed by Amnesty International said they found the Israeli government’s promises to be empty. Instead of being granted a residence permit, as promised, they were stuck with an irregular migration status, leaving them at risk of detention, without the possibility to work and the risk of forcible return to their country of origin in violation of the principle of non-refoulement.
“Israel’s dysfunctional asylum system has left Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers in limbo for years. These people, who came to Israel seeking safety, have been met with prolonged detention and violations of their basic human rights to asylum, health and safety. They are now facing the equally bleak prospects of being deported to an unknown country or being sent back to the persecution from which they fled,” said Chairman Mohamed, Head of Refugee and Migrant Rights.
“We are calling on the Israeli government to halt these procedures, grant asylum-seekers access to a fair and effective refugee status determination procedure and a pathway for legal status in Israel.”
According to the report, Amnesty International gathered information on the cases of 262 Eritrean asylum-seekers who tried repeatedly to submit their asylum application between 2016 and 2018. Most of them had tried one to four times, but 18 people said that they had tried five or six times; and 14 people said they had tried seven or more times, including seven people who said they had tried 10 times or more.
Despite the Israeli government’s claim that Eritreans and Sudanese asylum seekers are “economic migrants”, most Eritrean and Sudanese nationals are seeking protection from persecution and other serious human rights violations. The acceptance rate in European Union member states is 90% for Eritrean asylum-seekers and 55% for Sudanese asylum-seekers, while in Israel it’s less than half a percent.
“Israel is one of the most prosperous countries in the region, but it is going out of its way to shirk its responsibility to provide refuge to people fleeing war and persecution and who are already on its territory,” said Chairman Mohamed. “They are even trying to transfer that responsibility to Uganda and other countries who are already hosting some of the world’s largest refugee populations.”
The report further observed that “the Ugandan government has consistently denied the existence of any agreement for the reception of deportees from Israel, implicitly denying the presence of asylum-seekers arriving from Israel in their territory and refusing to acknowledge any obligations towards them.