Kampala. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday described as “absurd” a decision by the Israel government to start deporting Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers to Uganda without the country’s approval.
This, the government said, is in violation of international refugee statutes.
Speaking to Daily Monitor in an interview, acting Foreign Affairs minister Henry Okello Oryem said Uganda and Israel have no formal arrangement, “whatsoever”, on refugees nor have they been in touch with the [Israel] embassy headquartered in neighboring Kenya on the matter.
“I know Israel has been giving some refugees between $8,000--$7,000 to voluntarily leave but as Uganda, we do not have any formal arrangement with them. This matter has been raised before to us, and since it is getting serious, we should look into it.”
On Thursday, Israel said it was ready to start deporting asylum seekers of Sudanese and Eritrean origin, about 2,000, to Uganda and Rwanda on affirmation that they are safer here. An Israel publication, Haaretz, indicated that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy on refugee issues Hagai Hadas had given the green light to the deportation.
Ugandan authorities have denied having arrangement with Israel on asylum seekers but this newspaper understands that even without approval, they have been slowly coming into the country.
One immigration official, on condition of anonymity, said refugees in question have been coming into the country with a one way ticket, issued with temporary visas upon arrival at the various entry points as the rest are worked out.
This newspaper could not immediately reach officials at the Israel embassy in Nairobi for more clarity. An e-mail inquiry went unanswered by press time.
Authorities from Internal Affairs ministry yesterday referred the matter for comment to the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees. But State minister for Refugees Musa Ecweru said the matter was not formally communicated to him.