Photo: Motti Kimchi
Holot holding center
Photo: Motti Kimchi

Experts fear dangers faced in Rwanda by expelled asylum seekers

With the government paying asylum seekers $3,500 to leave Israel for Rwanda, experts say policy merely makes them targets for exploitation and robbery, argue 'Israel is violating UN refugee charter.'

Although the government unanimously approved a bill Sunday to close the Holot detention facility which houses African illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, the plan still depends on successfully expelling the inhabitants to Rwanda.



Israel and Rwanda recently signed an agreement whereby asylum seekers can be sent there even without their consent.


Asylum seekers have been sent to Rwanda for the past three years as part of a plan encouraging voluntary emigration.


Holot center Negev  (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Holot center Negev (Photo: Motti Kimchi)


Israeli human rights organizations say that not only does the arrangement violate the UN refugee's charter, but studies confirm that the prospects of the asylum seekers in Rwanda are quite dismal.


Professor Galia Sabar, President of the Ruppin Academic Center, Chair of African Studies at Tel Aviv University and a scholar of Immigration, was the first to examine what actually happened to the Sudanese and Eritreans who left "willingly" to Rwanda with a promise that they would be able to start a new life there.


Netanyahu with Rwanda president (Photo: Government press office)
Netanyahu with Rwanda president (Photo: Government press office)


"Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers cannot be returned to their country of origin according to the UN charter," explained Sabar. "But Israel assumes that since he is a black African, we can send him to another African country. But how can he cope there? He has no work, he does not speak the language, the state does not offer a social net and he is not in a familiar or welcoming environment."


Professor Sabar discovered that almost all those expelled to Rwanda did not remain there and shortly after arrival proceeded to look for a better place to settle.


"Rwanda is a small, relatively centralized state with lots of surveillance. There are a lot of security forces that on the one hand offers a feeling of safety but on the other hand it is obvious (that the state is watching you)."


Rwanda has only recently dragged itself out of a terrible civil war and the government did succeed in stabilizing the country and reconstructing its infrastructure and economic and educational systems, but it is questionable whether immigrants reap any of the new benefits.


Rwanda (Photo: EPA)
Rwanda (Photo: EPA)


"Will they be safe? Will they be able to work?" asked Sabar. " By sending an already weak population to poor and weak states we are sending the asylum seekers back into a cycle of deprivation."


Interior Ministry: move approved by court

According to the agreement, Israel will pay Rwanda $5,000 for every asylum seeker sent there. However, the Rwandan foreign minister recently announced that a larger sum is necessary in order to offer the asylum seekers any prospect of a decent life.


However, experts believe that the money will not reach the asylum seekers but is rather a payoff by the Israeli government to Rwanda. "I believe that Rwanda wants the money but does not want the asylum seekers themselves. This is clearly human trafficking," Sabar surmised.


In addition to the fee being paid to the government, Israel is paying each expellee $3,500 in addition to a one way ticket to Rwanda. But it is that stipend itself which may be posing the greatest danger to their safety.


Galia Rozner
Galia Rozner


"Whoever receives these people knows that they have at least $3,500 cash in their pocket, possibly much more if they brought along savings," says Sigal Rozen, Public Policy Coordinator at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. "They are therefore targets for robbery, even by the authorities. We know of many cases where they are arrested and demanded to pay a ransom for their release. It would have been better to send them without money."


Rozen described how the authorities in Africa rob the refugees: "During a night drive in the desert, police confiscate their money. Instead of being used to build a future it makes them a target."


The Israeli government, according to Rozen, is violating the International Convention on Refugees and turning a blind eye towards the abuse.


"They found their way here and we are obligated to provide them with shelter according to the agreement to which Israel is a signatory. We cannot decide to send them to corrupt countries that cannot guarantee their safety, but that is what is happening in fact," charged Rozen.


The Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration's said that the Supreme Court approved the agreement with these countries "and confirmed that there is no danger for those leaving willingly and we see nothing to add here.


"We are unaware of the above complaints. On the contrary, those who leave willingly receive a generous exit package and a paid-for flight ticket to their destination.


פרסום ראשון: 12.17.17, 23:47
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