Uganda denies deal to accept thousands of illegal African migrants from Israel

( Israel has struck a deal with Uganda to accept thousands of illegal African migrants in the upcoming months, Israeli media reported. Uganda, however, denied the deal.

The flag of Uganda. Credit: 

“We’re not aware of any such deal. There’s no way Uganda would enter such an arrangement,” Uganda Foreign Ministry spokesman Elly Kamahungye said.

On Wednesday, Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced a deal with an African country, later revealed to be Uganda, that will temporary accept Israel’s African migrants as part of a process of deportation.

“In the first stage we will focus on raising awareness and information among the migrant population while also helping to make all the exit arrangements,” Sa’ar said.

The second stage will be a direct appeal by Israel for the migrants to leave voluntarily. The Israeli government will then take action against those migrants who refuse to leave, ending their permits and enforcing laws against any employers.

As part of the migrants’ deportation, Israel would pay for the cost of their transport and provide a financial package that would take into consideration money and property they accumulated while in Israel.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Justice Ministry clarified the reported deal by saying, “at this time, the State of Israel is not forcibly deporting migrants from Sudan and Eritrea.”

“Their return to their countries is purely voluntary and when done under state custody, is carried out in accordance with the procedure approved by the attorney-general,” the spokesperson said.

According to the Israeli government, more than 55,000 African migrants, roughly 90 percent from Eritrea and Sudan, currently reside in Israel, mainly in south Tel Aviv. Their presence has caused a backlash from local residents, who claim the migrants are behind rising levels of crime. A major protest broke out in 2012 over themigrants’ presence.

Israel—which been erecting a 229-kilometer security fence along the Egyptian border to stem the tide of illegal immigration as well as the infiltration of terrorists—has had difficulty finding a home for the migrants. According to international law, Israel cannot deport them back to their country of origin if they face danger there, which is the case in Sudan and Eritrea.

Posted on August 29, 2013 .