MKs Michal Rozin and Mossi Raz of Meretz began a fact-finding mission to Rwanda and Uganda Thursday, to see how migrants deported from Israel to those countries live.
“We’re on an emergency four-day trip,” Rozin said in Rwanda, “to show public figures and human rights organization representatives the failures of the Israeli government in taking care of asylum-seekers.”
Raz said: “We came here to expose to the Israeli public one of the greatest injustices in the history of the State of Israel.
Sending people to an unknown fate will be on all of our consciences, and it is our responsibility to act in every way possible to stop the deportation.”
The trip comes after the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority sent notices to 20,000 single men of working age from Eritrea and Sudan on Sunday, which say they must leave Israel within 60 days for an unspecified third country – thought to be Rwanda or Uganda – or they will be deported or imprisoned. Those who voluntarily leave will receive $3,500 before boarding the plane.
There are about 38,000 African migrants in Israel, 15,000 of whom have applied for asylum. The Population and Immigration Authority has checked 6,500 of the applications and approved 11, in addition to allowing 1,100 asylum- seekers from the Darfur region of Sudan to remain in Israel. Women, children and married men are not currently subject to deportation or imprisonment.
While there has been an active protest movement against the deportation, a poll ordered by the Israel Democracy Institute showed this week that two-thirds of Israelis support the government policy.
Rozin said of the deportations: “We won’t allow it to happen until we exhausted all options of action.”
“The government insists that Rwanda is a safe country, but in Rwanda they say they don’t know of an agreement with Israel or those who Israel sent there... I’m much more worried at the end of this day than I was when I arrived here,” she said.
The MKs said they met with a “senior diplomatic figures” in Rwanda, who said that the country enjoys the economic benefit of payments from Israel, but doesn’t do anything for the migrants or give them a permanent status in the country.
Many asylum-seekers in Rwanda make haste to Uganda, which has led to an escalating dispute between the two countries, the diplomats said.
Aid organizations told the MKs that Rwanda refuses to recognize the migrants as refugees, because Israel didn’t do so, and that the authorities confiscate the documents the migrants have from Israel.
“Israel is using its economic might to bribe Rwanda to accept the refugees without any guarantee of their status,” Raz lamented.
They also met with migrants deported from Israel.
“They still do not have any status or a job, and they’re not allowed to enter refugee camps,” Raz said. “One of them called his brother in Israel and told him he should rather go to prison than be deported to Rwanda.”