The Ugandan government officially denies claims it has signed an agreement with Israel, whereby it would absorb forcefully deported Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. The Israeli government has resisted calls to divulge the details of the agreements it had allegedly signed with ‘third countries.’
Government officials in Uganda deny there is any agreement with Israel on the deportation of asylum seekers into the country, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, citing Ugandan daily New Vision. In the report, published Tuesday, Uganda’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs James Mugume is quoted as saying: “Neither the minister [of internal affairs] nor myself has any idea about it. We do not have any arrangement for receiving refugees from Israel.”
Nearly a month ago the Israeli government announced its intention to begin forcefully deporting Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to “third countries” – which are assumed to be Rwanda and Uganda, although Israeli authorities have yet to reveal any information. Refugee organizations have continuously voiced concern that these third countries do not guarantee the safety of asylum seekers and have called on Israel to be divulge the details of these obscure agreements.
Last week, at least three Eritrean asylum seekers who lived in Israel and were deported to a third country were executed by Islamic State militants in Libya. And on Tuesday, Ali Rasta, another Eritrean asylum seeker who had been an inmate in Israel’s Holot detention center, was reportedly murdered in Khartoum. According to asylum seeker activist and Holot inmate Mutasim Ali, he was forced to leave Israel for a third country, and then ended up in Sudan.
“The Ugandan government’s sweeping denial is disconcerting, and it illustrates the gap between Israel’s promises and the reality on the ground,” the Hotline for Migrants and Refugees said in a statement. The organization said it has testimonies of asylum seekers who were forced to leave Israel for Uganda and then realized they had no legal status there – contrary to what Israel had informed them.