Israel and Rwanda confirmed reports that the African country was working to finalize a multimillion dollar deal with Jerusalem to take on some of Israel's African immigrants and asylum seekers. Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said a deal was in the works Thursday, and on Friday, Israel's Interior Minister Gilad Erdan confirmed the report.
Israel has been struggling to deal with an influx of political and economic refugees from Africa. After failed attempts at incarcerating the refugee seekers in different facilitates, Israel said it would seek a "third country" to give home to those African nationals it intends to expel. Israel has faced both internal and external criticism for its ongoing failure to formulate a policy in regards to the asylum seekers.
Addressing a press conference in capital of Kigali on Thursday, Kagame said the two countries were in ongoing talks, but failed to supply details.
“On Rwanda and Israel, yes, I know there has been this discussion and it has been a debate in Israel about these Africans who have migrated to Israel as they do to other European countries. Some of them are either there illegally or with different status,” he said.
According to a report in the East African, the agreement between Israel and Rwanda will see Israel deport hundreds of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to both Rwanda and Uganda. In return, Rwanda will receive millions of dollars in grants and sales from Israel.
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Israel's Interior Minister Gilad Erdan confirmed the report Friday during an interview, offering some initial details: "We give them a package that includes a flight and $3,500 - no small sum in these countries. They will be given visas and will be allowed to work," he said.
Erdan formulated a plan to increase the foreign nationals "voluntary departures" to an undisclosed country last week. The majority of asylum seekers are now housed in Israel's Holot Detention Center – an "open" detention facility in the Negev.
Israel's plan encourages migrants "to leave Israel in a safe and respectable way," Erdan said when he first revealed the plan, explaining Israel was reaching out to African countries that would grant them legal immigration rights. Previous attempts at "voluntary departure" had come under fire after many of those who left of their own accord faced life threatening danger in their home country.
But this time is different, Erdan claims, saying that in the first few months, Israel will follow the foreign nationals intake process in the host countries to make sure they are properly treated.Ynet reported that Israel reached an agreement with two unnamed African countries willing to take in migrants who had illegally entered Israel and cannot be returned to their country of origin. Since the beginning of 2014, some 1,500 African migrants or asylum seekers left Israel to a third country, in addition to 7,000 who were returned to their country of origin.
According to different reports, Israel will deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, estimated at over 50,000, to African countries including Rwanda and Uganda under a new policy which has already been criticized by human rights defenders.
The migrant will receive all of the information on the process of leaving Israel, including the country he or she are going to and the process of absorption in the new country. Funding and organizing the migrants' departure - including plane tickets, hotels and an "exit grant" - will fall under Israel's responsibility.
The African migrant offered to partake in the program will have 30 days to arrange his or her departure. A migrant who is unwilling to leave will face a hearing, where it will be decided whether to move him to another detention facility as someone who fails to cooperate in his expulsion, according to article 13 of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law.
Omri Efraim contributed to this report