Israel Can't Keep Track of Deportees Sent to Rwanda and Uganda, Official Admits

Tape reveals deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely admitting that Israel does not have the means to monitor the fate of deportees - despite its commitment to do so

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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African asylum seekers protest outside Rwanda's embassy in Herzliya, Israel, January 22, 2018.
African asylum seekers protest outside Rwanda's embassy in Herzliya, Israel, January 22, 2018.Credit: מגד גוזני
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

In practice, Israel cannot keep track of people deported to Rwanda or Uganda and find out how they are managing, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely admitted Monday -- this, despite the state's promise to do so.

Hotovely's remarks, made at a meeting of Likud members on Monday, were taped and broadcast Tuesday evening on Kan11 television news.

“Actually, we presently have no way and no means to follow up on the fate of the people who go there. It doesn't matter whether they reach Rwanda or Uganda: we cannot follow up on them," she said, adding however that various solutions have been proposed.

The state promised the Supreme Court that it would create a monitoring mechanism in order to ensure that arrangements made with third countries concerning the African asylum seekers are implemented.

How well the deportees are acclimatizing, and whether the country is adhering to the terms of the agreement with it, can be checked after a month, as Israel has done in the past, Hotovely said, adding that she understands that to be one of the High Court of Justice's demands.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked how Israel might follow up on people sent to for Africa. Hotovely replied, "In any case, the Foreign Ministry certainly doesn’t have the manpower."

Netanyahu said that they need to check what the High Court expects to be done, to which Hotovely agreed, adding that the state's obligation has to be met.

“Hotovely too is admitting that the government is sending people to an unknown fate and is unable to keep track of what happens to them," stated Assaf — Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, following Hotovely's admission. "Let them not tell us lies. The deportations must stop, and how much Israel is paying Rwanda in exchange for human lives should be exposed.”

"The State of Israel is carrying out a crucial, necessary move to expel illegal infiltrators to other countries where their lives are not in danger," Hotovely commented. "Every democratic country has the right to control immigration to it."

She added that the Foreign Ministry had defended the agreements Israel has made with other countries before the court, and that the court had confirmed in its ruling that the lives of the deportees were not in danger in the countries to which they were sent.

She also said that the tapes from the Likud meeting were only part of what she said after the director-general of the Foreign Ministry told the Knesset's State Control Committee, that ministry personnel could not keep track of people in other countries.

Cynically cherry-picking statements cannot detract from the fact that Israel has the right, by local and international law, to expel infiltrators, Hotovely said.

In January 2017, following reports by human rights groups about deficiencies in the monitoring mechanism and a Supreme Court hearing, Israel stated that it was going to beef up mechanisms to monitor implementation of the agreements.

The state said it had established an inter-ministerial committee with people from the foreign, justice and interior ministries and a special envoy on behalf of the prime minister's office, which would convene once every three months, to monitor the situation of the deportees.

The state also said that it had established a special unit in the Interior Ministry to handle people departing to other countries and pledged to provide a “suitable response” to the matter of documentation given to deportees.

During a Supreme Court hearing on a petition against deporting African asylum seekers to third countries, the state said that from May 2015 to February 2016, about 1,300 Eritrean and Sudanese citizens had left Israel for third countries. Of them, 1,040 had agreed to leave contact information. The Population and Immigration Authority said it had tried to make contact with 760 of them and that 280 had responded, most of whom reported no special problems.

Justice Miriam Naor, the president of the Supreme Court at the time, wrote, “Although the Population and Immigration Authority could not establish contact with all those who left Israel for third countries,” she believed that a systemic, ongoing mechanism had been set up to keep track of deportees to third countries.

Following Hotovely's remarks, Zionist Union parliamentarian Shelly Yacimovich, chairwoman of the State Control committee, predicted that asylum seekers will not be expelled. Hotovely's remarks were simple facts, not political ones, Yacimovich said: "It is good that Hotovely, is demonstrating responsibility and certainly, not gladly, is telling it like it is. I don't think the deportations will happen, not due to moral grounds unhappily, but because the damage to Israel would be unbearable."

Deputy Foreign MinisterTzipi HotovelyCredit: meged gozani

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