Eritreans seeking asylum in Israel are being given the option of resettling in a third country, often Uganda and Rwanda, says Al Jazeera.
But Israel’s ‘policy’ of transferring arrivals from Africa has been criticised. Andie Lambe, executive director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, an NGO that has conducted extensive research into the departure of East African refugees from Israel, says: “What does it mean when an unknown third country is someone’s best option? To me that says they never really had a choice at all.”
Musgun Gebar is an Eritrean national who accepted the offer of a transfer to Uganda. He was being held at a detention centre in Israel’s Negev Desert where, he claims, he was given three options: go home to Eritrea, stay at the camp indefinitely, or accept departure to a third country of Israel’s choosing.
Israeli authorities have admitted they have an agreement with two African countries to relocate unwanted asylum seekers, but have denied rumours that it is in return for arms and military training. Both Uganda and Rwanda deny any deal with Israel, and say they have not given refugee status to any refugees arriving from Israel.
Many Eritreans flee their country to escape a ”brutal” and “oppressive” government, including Christians not belonging to denominations recognised by the state. According to the Christian charity Open Doors, ”believers are imprisoned in horrific conditions in their thousands – some in metal shipping containers in scorching conditions”.