Eritrean who left Israel faces deportation in Cairo
Tesfamihret Habtemariam left Israel voluntarily but was denied entry to Uganda, now awaiting flight from Cairo to Asmara.
Eritrean migrants: Illustratory Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
An Eritrean asylum seeker is reportedly in Cairo facing deportation to Eritrea five days after he agreed to be deported from Israel to Uganda, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The asylum seeker, Tesfamihret Habtemariam, had been in Israel for a few years and was arrested several months ago under the amendment to the “Infiltrators Law”
According to Eritrean-Swedish human rights activist Meron Estefanos, who contacted The Jerusalem Post about the story Sunday night, Habtemariam left Israel for Uganda on Thursday and at the airport in Uganda was told he would not be allowed to enter. He said he was kept at the airport waiting for four days before Uganda decided to deport him to Eritrea by way of Cairo, where he is now awaiting a flight to Asmara.
Habtemariam's private attorney, Lior Peretz, said that he met with his client on many occasions over the past months, and that during the hearings at the court at Saharonim prison he requested to be sent back to Uganda, where his father reportedly lives.
Peretz said his client was happy to return to Uganda and not that he was forced to by the state or did so solely due to the threat of longer incarceration. Peretz said he sounded very at ease and happy once he heard that he had a ticket to Uganda, and would be moving back there. Peretz said that he has not heard from his client since Thursday, though he promised to call him once he arrived. In addition, Peretz said that once he heard about what reportedly happened to Habtemariam he told another client in the process of agreeing to return to Uganda to put things on hold for now.
In mid-February, the Hotline for Migrant Workers reported that a group of 25 Eritreans agreed to return to Uganda, but were instead taken to meet with a representative of the Eritrean embassy and told they would be returned to Eritrea. The group refused to be sent back.
The HMW and the United Nations Higher Council for Refugees (UNHCR) both said there does not appear to be any sort of coordination between Israeli authorities and the Ugandan government on the matter of resettling Eritrea asylum seekers in Uganda.
Population, Immigrations, and Borders Authority Spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said PIBA is checking reports of the incident, but that if Uganda were to return a migrant they would do so to the country from which they came, not to a third or fourth country. She added that returns of migrants from prison are no longer taking place.