Amnesty Slams Israel on Illegal African Emigration Policies

An African laborer rides a bike carrying fabric along a main street in South Tel Aviv. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Israel is engaging in a “false and unlawful” effort to deport illegal Africans by lying to them about what awaits them in the single country that has agreed to accept them – Uganda. According to a report by Amnesty International, “no matter the language used by the Israeli government, the transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese nationals to Uganda are not truly voluntary: they are not based on the free and informed consent of the individual concerned.” Instead, they should be considered “forcible deportations,” thus placing Israel in violation of international treaties.

The report is based on the testimony of 21 illegal Africans who voluntarily left Israel between 2015 and 2018. The report says that the Africans, who claimed to be seeking asylum, agreed to go to Uganda, and from there to an unnamed country, or to remain in Uganda, where they would be absorbed. All those who left voluntarily signed an agreement that specified a package of benefits they would receive. In nearly all the cases, none of those benefits turned out to be what the volunteers expected.

The report said that the Africans were promised that they would receive a visa to remain in Uganda within 30 days. They filled out forms while still in Israel requesting the visas, ostensibly with the cooperation of the Ugandan government – but upon arriving in Uganda, no visas were forthcoming. In addition, the volunteers were promised that caseworkers would work with them on exploring the possibilities of permanent settlement in Uganda. However, the only presentations they were given discussed the “danger” to them of remaining in Uganda, and that they should tell authorities that their best chance of getting a visa would be to pay off an official. The report says that several volunteers who managed to reach Israeli officials were told that a payoff was their best bet as well.

The report calls on Israel to “reject any proposed law allowing the unlawful transfer of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to their country of origin or a third country; their coercion; or their arbitrary and indefinite detention,” as well as to “immediately halt all deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to “third countries” or their countries of origin, whether forcibly or “voluntary”; and assume its fair share of the common responsibility for the world’s refugees, starting with the refugees and asylum-seekers already on its territory or under its jurisdiction.”

The government has not yet commented on the report.