The Government of Rwanda has dismissed claims of a secret deal entered with their Israeli counterparts regarding the relocation of African migrants.
For months, global media has been awash with reports that Rwanda had entered a secret deal with Israel to host African migrants, mainly from the Horn of Africa, who sought asylum in the Middle East country.
“In reference to the rumors that have been recently spread in the media, the Government of Rwanda wishes to inform that it has never signed any secret deal with Israel regarding the relocation of African migrants,” reads a statement from Government Spokesperson, Minister Louise Mushikiwabo.
Mushikiwabo also doubles as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in this statement:
In these times of global migration crisis, Rwanda wishes to reiterate its firm determination to contribute, as much as possible, to the issue of men, women and children who find themselves on the treacherous road of exile.
Rwanda’s position on migrants, wherever they may originate from, was informed and shaped by a sentiment of compassion towards African brothers and sisters who are today perishing in high seas, sold on the markets like cattle or expelled from the countries in which they sought shelter. Rwanda is ready to help in whatever limited way it could, by welcoming anyone arriving at its borders in need of a home, voluntarily and without any constraint.
In reference to the rumors that have been recently spread in the media, the Government of Rwanda wishes to inform that it has never signed any secret deal with Israel regarding the relocation of African migrants. In this regard, Rwanda’s policy vis-à-vis Africans in need of a home, temporary or permanent, within our country’s means, remains “open doors”.
Rwanda is ready to help in whatever limited way it could, by welcoming anyone arriving at its borders in need of a home, voluntarily and without any constraint, the statement reads.
Following the reports of the thousands of African migrants trapped in Libya, Rwanda in November last year offered to host up to 30,000 of these immigrants.
Rwanda also offered to help transport those that opted to return to their home countries.
Rwanda and Uganda have both denied that they have signed an agreement with Israel to accept African migrants from the country, despite much publicity from the Israeli government.
Uganda’s Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem earlier this month told AFP that it had “no such agreement with the government of Israel to send refugees here.”
Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied that his country has signed a deal to accept asylum seekers that Israel hopes to remove from inside its borders.
On Twitter, Nduhungirehe rebutted a Guardian article about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to pay Rwanda and neighbor Uganda to accept the migrants, saying: “#Rwanda has no deal whatsoever with #Israel to host any African migrant from that country. This story is no news; it’s FAKE NEWS.”
Interior Minister Arye Deri said earlier this week that Israel is “embarking on a big operation of infiltrating the infiltrators into a third countries , referring to those ones. According to Israeli politicians, an agreement is in place for the two African nations to accept $5,000 per asylum-seeker that they accept. The plan for doing so was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday.
Those who are not immediately deported will be imprisoned within 90 days, and those who choose to leave “voluntarily” have been offered $3,500 and free airfare from the government.
Earlier this week, Netanyahu boasted that zero “infiltrators” had entered the country in 2017. The government currently counts approximately 40,000 refugees in the country as “infiltrators,” in part because they do not have official refugee status.
The government received nearly 18,000 applications for asylum status from various foreigners in 2017 – only 2,550 of which came from Eritreans or Sudanese – but rejected or refused to review nearly all of them.
Non-governmental organizations have come out against the country’s plan to deport or imprison migrants. In a joint letter, the Center for Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International Israel, the Association for Assistance to Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights and the African Refugee Development Center said that “anyone with a heart must oppose the expulsion of refugees.”