The government’s plan to expel thousands of illegal African migrants to a third country apparently ran into trouble with Uganda on Thursday, which denied that it had agreed to take them in as part of a deal with Israel, The Times of Israel reported.
Cognizant that migrants from Sudan and Eritrea have legitimate fears from the authorities in those countries if they are sent back, Israel has reportedly arranged for safe haven in Rwanda and Uganda, though there has been no official confirmation.
“Uganda is disturbed by these reports,” Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem told AFP. “We have no such agreement with the government of Israel to send refugees here.”
However, refugee activists were dismissive of the Uganda denial.
Adi Drori-Avraham, from the Israeli group ASSAF (Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers), told AFP that “from what we know, Uganda is a party to the amended agreement, allowing that people can be coerced into leaving.
“It has published a denial, although I have to say that Uganda has for years been denying that it has some kind of deal with Israel,” he said. “But we see that thousands arrive there, so I don’t know how much Uganda’s denials should be taken seriously.”
There was no immediate reaction from Rwanda.
Israeli authorities have given the illegal migrants until the end of March to leave the country. Each will receive a plane ticket and $3,500 as an incentive to do so. Those who refuse will face arrest.