Last month, the Israeli government told High court in Jerusalem that it had dropped plans to deport hundreds of Eritrean and Sudan refugees after failing to reach an agreement with a ‘third country’.
Now, Oryem has confirmed that there is no deal with the Israel government because they failed to reach a consensus on the status of the refugees. He says although it was the Israeli Government that announced the suspension of the deal, he says its Uganda that opted out of the deal after failing to agree with Israel.
Israel backed out of the deal owing to pressure from several civil society and rights against the forceful deportation of the refugees. The critics called the forceful deportation unethical, saying it would taint the country’s image. It came after Netanyahu announced plans to deport 38,000 migrants to a third country in January this year, prompting an outcry from activists across the world.
Israel started handing out notices with a plane ticket to male migrants from Eritrea and Sudan giving them three months to take the voluntary deal and USD 3,500. Information published by the Israel media indicates that 1,749 migrants have been deported to Uganda since 2015.
According to the publications, 485 migrants were deported in 2015, 506 in 2016, 630 in 2017 and 128 to date in 2018. There are some 27,000 Eritreans and 7,700 Sudanese in Israel.
Only ten Eritreans and one Sudanese have been recognized as refugees since Israel took over refugee status determination from UNHCR in 2009. Another 200 Sudanese, all from Darfur, were granted humanitarian status in Israel. There was an announcement that another 300 will follow.
Israel has not received any Eritreans or Sudanese since May 2016, according to UNHCR records. Unconfirmed reports initially stated that more than 4,000 asylum seekers forcefully removed from Israel, were dumped in two African countries believed to be Uganda and Rwanda through the forced relocation that began in December 2013.
Media reports suggested that the three countries cut a secret, high-level deal in which the African states accepted refugees in return for arms, military training and other aid from Israel. But government officials said this was false news.