Rwanda: Ready to Take 10,000 Asylum Seekers From Israel - if They're Willing to Come

In an interview with Rwanda's New Times, foreign minister says negotiations with Israel are ongoing ■ Report says Israel would pay $5,000 for every asylum seeker Rwanda is willing to take in

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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An asylum seeker in the Holot detention center.
An asylum seeker waits in the Holot detention center. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Thursday that Rwanda is ready to accept around 10,000 asylum seekers, or "a bit more," who are currently living in Israel.

"We have had discussions with Israel on receiving some of the immigrants and asylum seekers from this part of Africa who would be willing to come to Rwanda," the minister said in an interview with Rwandan English newspaper the New Times. "If they are comfortable to come here, we would be willing to accommodate them. How it’s done and their livelihoods once they are here are details that have not been concluded yet,” the minister said.

The negotiations include how to secure the welfare of around 10,000 refugees, including livelihood, accommodations, and general wellbeing, she said.

On Sunday it was reported that Israel would pay $5,000 for every asylum seeker that Rwanda is willing to absorb. A senior government official confirmed the report to Haaretz, though the agreement has not been made public. Details remain unknown, though Israel said they will continue to pay $3,500 dollars and finance the flight tickets of asylum seekers who voluntarily leave the country.

“I think what we are looking for is for any migrant coming to settle here to have the minimum basics to have housing, to be able to stay in the country long enough while finding a job or setting up a business. We expect everyone to have a minimum of shelter."

"We do not envision people to come here and stay in camps. We envision giving them a normal life,” she said.

In the same meeting, Mushikiwabo said Rwanda is considering taking in 30,000 African immigrants from Libya. “We have a very progressive and open policy when it comes to people living and settling in this country. Nobody should feel like they have no country to live in, especially those who are close to us,” she told the New Times.

Israel approved a plan earlier this month to close the Holot detention center in 4 months and to send refugees either to Rwanda or Jail.

In 2014, Haaretz reported that asylum seekers who agreed to a 'voluntary departure' to Rwanda arrived in the country with no status, no permits, and no path to livelihood. Some were directed from Rwanda to Uganda with no warning and no infrastructure in place.

As reported by Haaretz, the Population and Immigration Authority is expected to launch an expulsion operation in the coming weeks directed at asylum seekers in Israel from Eritrea and Sudan. Many of them are expected to receive notices demanding that they leave the country or face incarceration for an unlimited amount of time.

It remains undecided who will be the first recipients of the notices, but women, children and victims of human trafficking are to be excluded from the expulsion drive as will individuals who have sought asylum in Israel and have not yet received a response.

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