Forced and unlawful: Israel’s deportation of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to Uganda

Amnesty International

Between 2015 and March 2018, Israel deported some 1,700 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum-seekers to Uganda.

Upon arrival in Uganda, deportees find a shambolic reception, which leaves them without papers, without protection and without sustainable resources.

This pushes many to continue their journeys to other African countries or to Europe.

This report argues that Israel’s deportations to Uganda violate Israel’s obligations under international law.

Israel’s deportation policy is a way to abdicate its responsibility towards the refugees and asylum-seekers under its jurisdiction and shift it to less wealthy countries with bigger refugee populations.

This report argues that Israel’s deportations to Uganda violate Israel’s obligations under international law.

Israel’s deportation policy is a way to abdicate its responsibility towards the refugees and asylum-seekers under its jurisdiction and shift it to less wealthy countries with bigger refugee populations.

Full Report:

Israel deporations of refugees AMNESTY


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In January 2018, the Israeli government launched a new Procedure for Deportation to Third Countries, under which Sudanese and Eritrean single men who had not applied for asylum by the end of 2017 (or whose request was denied) would be deported to a “third country” in Africa. According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the measure was the third stage of Israel’s policy towards “infiltrators”, the term used in Israeli law to describe irregular migrants.

The first stage (2006-2012) consisted of physically blocking their entry with a tall razor-wire fence along the border with Egypt; and the second stage (2013-2017) involved transferring them to their country or origin or a “third country” on a “voluntary” basis.

In April 2018, the Israeli government admitted that the “third country”, Rwanda, had refused to accept deportations and announced the end of its deportation policy and a new solutions agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), involving some 33,000 people.

Less than 24 hours later, however, the government cancelled the agreement with UNHCR, before rushing to reassure the Supreme Court that a deportation deal with a second “third country” (Uganda) was still valid. Despite these reassurances, the government was unable to show the Court a written deal with an African country accepting deportations. On 15 April, the Supreme Court ordered the suspension of the deportation plan and the release of all Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers detained awaiting deportation.

At the time of writing, the deportations to African third countries are suspended. However, Israel and Uganda are still negotiating a possible agreement for the transfer of Sudanese and Eritrean nationals. Crucially, the “voluntary” transfers, which Israel has been carrying out since 2013, continue.

This report argues that, no matter the language used by the Israeli government, the transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese nationals to Uganda are not truly voluntary: they are not based on the free and informed consent of the individual concerned. Up to April 2018, the Israeli authorities used indefinite detention (or its threat) as the main tool to effectively force Eritrean and Sudanese nationals to leave Israel (chapter 2).

Several other measures and factors have made their lives very difficult:

▪ First, the Israeli asylum system is dysfunctional and unfair. As a result, the chances of finding protection in Israel are effectively close to zero. Despite the government’s claim that Eritrean and Sudanese nationals in Israel are economic migrants, most of them seek protection from persecution and other serious human rights violations. Israel’s asylum system creates obstacles to submitting asylum claims; handles them excruciatingly slowly; or rejects them after an unfair and deeply flawed process (chapter 1).

▪ Second, the refusal of the Israeli authorities to officially name the countries the deportees are sent to – and the failure to keep promises as to the treatment they will receive upon arrival – speak volumes as to the scant and misleading information the deportees are provided before leaving Israel (chapter 3).

▪ Third, racist and xenophobic discourse by government officials also weigh heavily on asylum-seekers’ decision to leave (chapter 4).

No consent for “voluntary” transfers can be free and genuine under these conditions.

As the transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to Uganda are forcible, even when the deportee signs consent papers, they must comply with the international law obligation of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from transferring anyone to a country where they would be at real risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations or abuses, or to a country where they would not be protected against such transfer.

This report argues that the deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers from Israel violate the international law obligation of non-refoulement and the international law prohibition of discrimination.

Amnesty International urges the government of Israel to immediately halt all transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to “third countries” or their countries of origin, whether forcible or “voluntary”; and assume its fair share of the common responsibility for the world’s refugees, starting with the refugees and asylum-seekers already on its territory or under its jurisdiction.1 The organization also urges the government of Uganda to refuse any form of cooperation with Israel to carry out unlawful deportations, including by refusing to accept the deportees into their territory.

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