Israel plans to soon begin deporting migrants from Eritrea and Sudan, who number more than 50,000, back to the African continent via Uganda, officials said.
Israelis from the Ethiopian community demonstrate, calling the government to bring thousands of their loved one from Ethiopia to Israel. AFP photo
Israel regards most of these Africans as illegal visitors crowding impoverished areas in search of jobs, and largely rejects the position of human rights groups that many fled their countries in search of political asylum.
A statement late Aug. 29 from Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar saidIsrael would soon begin a staged process of deporting the migrants, most of whom crossed the border with neighboring Egypt, Israel’s frontier with Africa, since 2006.
Sa’ar said an agreement had been reached with an African country other than Eritrea and Sudan to absorb these migrants who would soon be urged “to leave of their own free will.”
Michal Rozin, chairwoman of parliament’s committee on foreign workers, said by telephone that Uganda was the country that had agreed to absorb migrants who had settled in Israel. Rozin said there were “rumors” that Uganda may have agreed to the arrangement in exchange for a deal for money and weapons.
Military equipment ‘supplied’ in return
Without mentioning any country by name, the Haaretz newspaper said the nation where African migrants from Israel would be absorbed had recently concluded deals to be supplied with artillery guns and mortars, and to improve an aging fleet of combat aircraft.
Human rights groups say Israel has jailed hundreds of African migrants and has taken other steps as a pressure tactic to get them to agree to leave the country. In July, a group of 14 Eritreans were repatriated after receiving $1,500 each from Israeli authorities.
Some 2,000 Africans are being held in the southern detention centers. A fortified fence along Israel’s tense border with Egypt’s Sinai has largely stemmed the flow of migrants who walked across what was once a porous frontier at a rate of up to 2,000 a month in 2011.