News / Africa

Israel, Uganda Discuss Deal for African Asylum Seekers

African migrants sit in a street in southern Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 10, 2012.
African migrants sit in a street in southern Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 10, 2012.
Israel says it is likely to send at least some of its Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Uganda.  In return for accepting the refugees, Uganda would receive aid and weapons.  Such a trade would provide Uganda the weapons it seeks, but could create legal problems as well.

Last week, Israel’s interior minister said Uganda had agreed to accept thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese, whom Israel considers to be illegal economic migrants.  Nearly 55,000 of them live in Israel, where many have sought asylum.

But since Friday, the number of migrants destined for Uganda has been scaled down to a few hundred.  Israeli officials said the “deal” with Uganda was nothing more than a verbal understanding, and the Ugandan government has denied such an agreement exists.

But it appeared the announcement was not entirely unfounded.  The co-founder of the International Refugee Rights Initiative in Kampala, Dismas Nkunda, said he has heard rumors of such a deal for the past two years.  But he said it did not seem to have gone through the usual channels.

“What we heard is that there are certain Uganda government officials who entered those negotiations without necessarily informing the agencies that are responsible for protection or even admission of refugees into the country,” said Nkunda.

Israel’s relationship with Uganda has been tumultuous.  In 1976, Idi Amin famously gave refuge to Palestinians who had hijacked a passenger plane, and dozens of people were killed in the Israeli commando rescue operation that followed.

But Makarere University Security Studies Professor Paul Omach explained in the 1960s the two countries were closely connected, with Israel giving Uganda agricultural training and military aid.

“I know in the 1960s Israel was training the air force.  A number of Ugandan paratroopers trained in Israel also.  At that time Israel was trying to use Uganda as a southern flank to fight the Arabs during the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said.

Under Uganda’s current president, Yoweri Museveni, Israel has provided military assistance once more, although Omach said the details of these deals were never made public.  If Uganda does accept Israel’s unwanted migrants, he said, it may well be in exchange for arms.

“Museveni is always building the military.  Right now he has just commissioned a tank crew.  So this is a continuous thing.  We live in a turbulent region, so you need to be prepared,” said Omach.

But sending asylum seekers to Uganda would contradict international refugee law, said Nkunda, and could create legal problems once the migrants arrived.

“What happens to them, certainly that is going to be a very big legal problem, because on what basis are they being admitted in Uganda?  They have not sought refugee status in Uganda, they have not sought asylum in Uganda.  They sought first asylum in the first country they thought of, which was Israel.  Actually, you might say that they might end up becoming stateless,” said Nkunda.

Nor was it clear where the new arrivals would be put, he added, though they may well end up in one of Uganda’s refugee camps.

“We have large camps in Uganda; camps for Congolese, camps for Somalis even.  So it is possible that they might end up just driving them over into the camp to look after themselves,” said Nkunda.

Omach said this could be just another example of a richer nation paying a poorer one to solve its problems.

“Israel looks at these immigrants, mostly Africans really, as unwanted in its country.  So if somebody can take it and you can just sign the checks, and you get somebody who is itching for money, that is definitely what they will do,” said the professor.

But unless a formal agreement is signed, Omach and Nkunda agree the public may never know the details of what really happened between Israel and Uganda.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid