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Israel's deportation of African migrants 'cruel and illegal'

African migrants regularly took to the streets to protest the deportation plans [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 June, 2018

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Amnesty found Eritrean and Sudanese nationals have been subjected to prolonged detention and violations of their basic human rights in Israel.
Israel's forced deportation of African migrants is cruel and unlawful, Amnesty International said on Monday.

Between 2015 and March 2018, Israel deported some 1,700 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum-seekers to Uganda. But upon arrival in Uganda, deportees found a shambolic reception, without papers, without protection and without sustainable resources, according to research by the rights group.

"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," said Charmain Mohamed, head of refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty.

"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."

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. Yet "voluntary" transfers of these nationals, which Israel has been carrying out since 2013, have continued to Uganda.
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
The rights group has found that once in Uganda, deported asylum-seekers have found Israel's promises of a residence permit there to allow them to work and protect them from forcible return to their home country, to be empty.

"Voluntary" transfers, are not free of violations, either. Amnesty found the combination of several factors - an intentionally dysfunctional asylum system, the use or threat of indefinite detention, aggressive and discriminatory statements by government officials and vague and misleading information about what awaits them after the transfer - force many asylum-seekers to leave the country to find protection elsewhere.

"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," Mohamed said.

Amnesty spoke to 30 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, including people deported to Uganda and Rwanda from Israel, some of whom were still in Israel, and one man who had been forcibly returned to Sudan, and gathered information on cases of 262 asylum-seekers, in its report titled Forced and Unlawful: Israel's Deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum-Seekers to Uganda.

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. 

Amnesty the transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers from Israel, even if the government of Israel considers them "voluntary", are illegal under international law as they violate the principle of non-refoulement.

The report also highlights how the Israeli asylum system is intentionally dysfunctional and difficult, and the chances of finding protection in Israel are close to zero for almost all asylum claims. 

It said it is a way for Israel to "abdicate its responsibility" towards the refugees and asylum-seekers under its jurisdiction and "shift it to less wealthy countries with bigger refugee populations", feeding the global refugee crisis.

Street protests

The initial plan to deport the migrants was met with large scale protests in Israel.

Tens of thousands of African migrants regularly took to the streets to protest the deportation plans and demand their right to remain in Israel without experiencing discrimination.

Along with Israel's systematic hostility towards the native Palestinian population, anti-blackness is prevalent in Israel.

In March, Netanyahu claimed that African migrants are a greater threat to Israel than jihadis and praised an electrified fence running out along its southern border.

"Were it not for the fence, we would be faced with severe attacks by Sinai terrorists, and something much worse - a flood of illegal migrants from Africa," Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying.

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