African Asylum Seekers Protest Against Planned Deportation by Israeli Authorities

Some of the aggrieved asylum seekers, demonstrating outside the Rwandan embassy in Tel Aviv on Monday

On Monday, thousands of African asylum seekers in Israel gathered at the Rwandan embassy in Tel Aviv and protested against a plan by the government of Israel plan to deport them to some African countries without their consent.

“We plead with you to accept our request and call on your government to cancel the agreement reached with Israel that enables our forced deportation,” the protesters said in a letter addressed to the Rwandan ambassador to Israel, Joseph Rutabana.

“We are Eritreans, we are not Rwandans. We have a problem in our country and Israel needs to examine our asylum requests and give us protection. We ask Rwanda to object the agreement with Israel.”

Immigration Authority in Israel has started informing Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers that they must leave for Rwanda or Uganda.

Those who leave before April will receive USD 3,500, airfare and other incentives. Many of the migrants say they fled conflict and persecution and seek refugee status.

Israel calls asylum seekers “infiltrators” and economic migrants whose numbers likely to threaten its Jewish character.

However, Rwanda and Uganda say there is no agreed arrangement with Israel to accommodate the said asylum seekers.

Early this month, the governments of Rwanda and Uganda denied any deal with Israel to host thousands of African migrants told to leave that country in the next three months or face incarceration.

Rwanda’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Olivier Nduhungirehe, said his country has never reached any agreement with Israel on hosting asylum seekers while Uganda’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Henry Okello Oryem described the reports that his country had agreed to host the asylum seekers as baseless.

The protesters urged Rwanda and Uganda to cancel the agreements they allegedly signed with the government of Israel for the forcible deportation of African asylum seekers from the country.

The UN refugee agency last year said it was “seriously concerned” by Israeli plan to call on the asylum seekers to accept relocation to African countries or face imprisonment.

Israel is home to about 40,000 asylum seekers, including 27,500 Eritrean and 7,800 Sudanese asylum seekers, UNHCR figures show.

Last week, 35 prominent Israeli authors called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to withdraw plans to deport thousands of African asylum seekers. After the authors’ petition, nearly 500 Israeli academics have also signed a similar letter urging the Prime Minister to shelve the plan.

“We call on you to retract the cabinet resolution [approving the] arrest and forcible deportation of the asylum seekers who have taken refuge in Israel,” 470 college and university faculty members wrote in the letter addressed to the prime minister, members of the cabinet and President Reuven Rivlin.

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