State to High Court: African migrant deportation negotiations stuck

The state on Sunday released over 200 migrants from the Saharonim detention center in the south due to the lack of a deal.

April 16, 2018 11:56
2 minute read.
African migrants take part in a protest against Israel's detention policy toward them

African migrants take part in a protest against Israel's detention policy toward them. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)


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Negotiations to deport African migrants to another country, widely acknowledged as Uganda, are stuck, the state reported to the High Court of Justice on Monday.

While trying to emphasize the positive – that negotiations were ongoing and intensive, the state admitted that Israel’s special envoy had returned home on Sunday night with no deal.

The absence of a deal was also the reason that the state had to release 205 migrants on Sunday from the Saharonim detention center in the South.

At the same time, Israel Radio reported on Monday that Israel is in talks with Zambia and possibly other African nations to absorb deported African migrants.

Interior Minister Arye Deri’s office referred the question to the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority. Neither the authority nor the Prime Minister’s Office responded to inquiries regarding the issue and the Foreign Ministry declined to respond.

Last week, in another meeting between the state and High Court, despite promises to announce a deal within a matter of hours with a third-party country for deporting the migrants, the state continued to waffle before the High Court about whether it had closed such a deal.
Eritrean protester: We are human beings, April 4, 2018 (Reuters)

Asked then several times point blank by the justices whether there was a deal or not, the state dodged the question dizzyingly with vague phrases until finally saying it would give another update within 48 hours.

All of this is despite public statements by Uganda that it is not accepting migrants from Israel – which seemed to be finally confirmed on Monday by the acknowledgment that negotiations were stuck.

Last week, the justices confronted the state with Uganda’s denials of a deal and demanded a straight answer, considering the state said there was a deal already two months ago before inexplicably saying it was still checking aspects of updates to the deal.

Finally, when the court asked whether the third country would receive migrants on an airplane if it landed right now, the state asked for 48 hours to make additional clarifications.

At the start of April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the state was halting its policy of deporting migrants to Rwanda or detaining those that refused deportation, in favor of a deal with the UN to facilitate deportation of around 16,000 migrants to Western countries, with another more-than-20,000 migrants getting to stay in Israel.

However, only hours later, Netanyahu suspended the UN deal and by the next day, he had reneged on the deal, with the state telling the court it was going to try to replace Rwanda with a different third-party country.

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