Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Get Rid of African Refugees – Foreign Policy
By the time Benjamin Netanyahu secured a third term as prime minister in 2013, the tensions had hardened into outright hostility. That year, Israel sealed off its border with Egypt and implemented a raft of policies aimed at making life more difficult for asylum-seekers already in Israel. Then it began secretly pressuring Eritreans and Sudanese to leave for unnamed third countries, a shadowy relocation effort in which Semene and thousands like him are now ensnared.
Israeli officials have kept nearly everything else about this effort secret, even deflecting requests for more information from UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. But a year-long investigation by Foreign Policy that included interviews with multiple Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers as well as people involved at various stages of the relocation process — including one person who admitted to helping coordinate illegal border crossings — reveals an opaque system of shuffling asylum-seekers from #Israel, via #Rwanda or Uganda, into third countries, where they are no longer anyone’s responsibility.
It begins with furtive promises by Israeli authorities of asylum and work opportunities in Rwanda and Uganda. Once the Sudanese and Eritrean asylum-seekers reach Kigali or Entebbe, where Uganda’s international airport is located, they describe a remarkably similar ordeal: They meet someone who presents himself as a government agent at the airport, bypass immigration, move to a house or hotel that quickly feels like a prison, and are eventually pressured to leave the country. For the Eritreans, it is from Rwanda to Uganda. For Sudanese, it is from Uganda to South Sudan or Sudan. The process appears designed not just to discard unwanted refugees, but to shield the Israeli, Rwandan, and Ugandan governments from any political or legal accountability.