Amid embassy protests, Rwanda denies secret migrant deal with Israel

By AT editor - 23 January 2018 at 7:28 am
Amid embassy protests, Rwanda denies secret migrant deal with Israel

The Government of Rwanda, under scrutiny for its position on accepting relocated African migrants, has issued a statement on clarifying its position and denying it has any arrangement with Israel.

“In reference to the rumors that have been recently spread in the media, the Government of Rwanda wishes to inform that it has never signed any secret deal with Israel regarding the relocation of African migrants,” the government statement said. “In this regard, Rwanda’s policy vis-à-vis Africans in need of a home, temporary or permanent, within our country’s means, remains “open doors.”

Thousands of migrants in Israel protested in front of the Rwandan embassy in Herzliya on Monday because Israeli officials are demanding they leave for Rwanda or face imprisonment; the Israeli government previously announced compensated deals with Rwanda and Uganda to accept the returning migrants, some of whom were again sent on their way and faced harrowing conditions in Libya. In a symbolic gesture of solidarity, pilots with Israeli airline El Al have refused to fly the migrants elsewhere.

As Israeli leaders moved forward with forced deportation plans affecting primarily Eritrean and Sudanese migrants, international concern has grown over their fate. In November, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed alarm over the 27,500 Eritreans and 7,800 Sudanese refugees in Israel, most of whom have never received a formal humanitarian status.

Rwanda, along with Uganda, denied there was any deal earlier this month although Kigali conceded there have been negotiations on accepting Israel’s deported migrants in the past that never came to fruition. The new statement reiterated the central African country’s stance.

“Rwanda’s position on migrants, wherever they may originate from, was informed and shaped by a sentiment of compassion towards African brothers and sisters who are today perishing in high seas, sold on the markets like cattle or expelled from countries in which they sought shelter,” it said. “Rwanda is ready to help in whatever limited way it could, by welcoming anyone arriving at its borders in need of a home, voluntarily and without any constraint.”

Image: JTA file

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