Many of the 54,000 African migrants and refugees held in Israeli desert prisons on the Egyptian border would begin to be deported to third countries soon, Reuters reported. Israel had refused to name its partner states in June but after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz succeeded in having a gagging order lifted, interior minister Gideon Sa’ar announced in late August that an agreement had been reached with Uganda to absorb the ‘infiltrators’, who would soon be urged ‘to leave of their own free will’.
Israel has previously paid migrants to leave. In July, an Israeli human rights group, Hotline for Migrant Workers, condemned the repatriation of 14 Eritreans, who received $1,500 each from Israeli authorities, as a ‘grave human rights violation’ in view of Eritrea’s poor human rights record.
Now, in an exchange that shows a certain kind of innovative thinking, Vice reported that Uganda was among several African countries that had brokered what it said were lucrative deals for Israeli weapons and military training in return for taking thousands of African refugees.
David Apollo Kazungu, of the Ugandan government’s Refugee Department, told Vice: ‘No such agreement is in place between Uganda and Israel. Uganda fully respects and encourages state parties to respect rights of refugees.’
Israel already has strong ties with Uganda, such as introducing sophisticated agro-technology to the country and supporting its health system. But, Haaretz said, Israeli defence firms had also trained Ugandan security forces. ‘Newer support to Uganda’s military—weapons, training, fighter jets, and possibly drones—[is what] many suspect to be behind the country’s decision to import asylum-seekers,’ suggested Vice.