Israel continues to deport thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees to developing countries like Uganda and Rwanda, despite rising questions about the circumstances under which these deportations are done. While the Israeli government insists that the asylum seekers sent to Uganda and Rwanda are not refugees, but labor migrants who have voluntarily agreed to be deported, however, the Ugandan government maintains that they have not signed a refugee deal with Israel, according to Al Jazeera.
Contrary reports suggest that Israel has cut a clandestine deal with Rwanda and Uganda in which the two East African countries accept refugees in exchange for arms, military training, and other forms of aid from Israel.
But in an interview with Al Jazeera, the spokesman of the Ugandan government, Ofwono Opondo, denied the existence of such a deal, saying it is “a rumor circulated by Israeli intelligence.”
Humanitarian organizations have often accused Israel of paying refugees to leave the country, but the Israeli government insists that they have left voluntarily.
Executive Director of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Reut Michaeli, earlier this year said that the recent trip to Uganda by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meant to discuss the issue of asylum seekers, reports Think Progress.
“It won’t be surprising if the price that Israel is paying, in return for [its] involvement in human trade, is more weapons sent to Africa, which may easily end up in the hands of the wrong regimes,” Michaeli said.
She insisted that most of the refugees sent back to Africa end up dying in the Mediterranean Sea as they attempt to cross over to Europe.
“Instead of sharing the responsibility to solve the refugee crises, the Israeli government is contributing to more chaos and putting more people at risk,” Michaeli warned.
Critics also argue that instead of being given legal status and an opportunity to make a living in Uganda as promised, many asylum seekers have become victims of trafficking or left in the country without any legal papers, making them vulnerable.
As of 2015, Israel deported more than 3,000 Sudanese and Eritrean refugees to Uganda and Rwanda, according to Al Jazeera.
Many of the African refugees seeking asylum in Israel are victims of war and dictatorship in their home countries.