Thousands Protest at Rwanda's Embassy in Israel Against Asylum-seeker Deportation Plan

Asylum seekers and Israeli protesters hold signs saying that recognizing refugees is a moral duty and 'Kagame, we're not for sale'

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Protesters at demonstration against Israel's plan to deport African asylum seekers on February 7th, 2018.
Protesters at demonstration against Israel's plan to deport African asylum seekers on February 7th, 2018. Credit: \ Moti Milrod
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Thousands of people demonstrated outside the Rwandan embassy in Herzliya against the government's plan to deport African asylum seekers from Israel on Wednesday.

The protesters, mostly asylum seekers along with dozens of Israelis, brandished signs saying that recognizing refugees is a moral duty, with quotes such as “Kagame, we’re not for sale.” Another sign asked how many bombs their blood bought for him.

>> Two Out of Three Israelis Support Deportation of African Asylum Seekers, Poll FindsAsylum Seekers Deported to Rwanda Warn Those Remaining: ‘Don’t Come Here’ <<

Thomas, 29, an Eritrean who has been incarcerated in Holot for the last 11 months, called on Rwanda to refuse to cooperate with deportation from Israel. “We are human beings. They can’t buy us,” he said. “We aren’t in need of a state, we’re in need of human rights there are no human rights in Rwanda either. I won’t go to Rwanda. It’s better to go to jail. I have heard a lot about Rwanda. People go missing there.”

Protesters at demonstration against Israel's plan to deport African asylum seekers on February 7th, 2018. Credit: \ Moti Milrod

He applied for asylum two years ago and never received an answer, Thomas says. He adds that four busloads arrived from Holot for the protest.

On Sunday the Population, Immigration and Border Authority began issuing deportation notices to asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan. In the first stage the notices will be issued to men without children seeking to renew residence visas. Arrests of people told to leave, who do not, will begin in about two months.

>> Explained: Everything You Need to Know About Israel's Mass Deportation of Asylum Seekers <<

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Arye Dery tweeted on Wednesday morning that “In contrast to the fake news, there is no danger to the labor infiltrators we are deporting to third countries.” He added that the population authority is keeping track of their state and is in contact with them, as the High Court of Justice ordered. So is a representative of the state, Dery said.

Protesters at demonstration against Israel's plan to deport African asylum seekers on February 7th, 2018. Credit: \ Moti Milrod

In contrast, asylum seekers already sent to Rwanda claim that upon their arrival, their documents are seized. At first, they are housed in a well-to-do area, but after a few days pressure to leave the country mounts and pay a smuggler for transport into Uganda mounts. Those who elect to stay in Rwanda discover they are not categorized as refugees and that Rwanda won’t issue them permits.

Six people related that after having their documents taken, they were jailed for months, some more than once. Money Israel had given them for leaving ran out in a year or two, leaving them penniless, and they don’t know the local dialects and can’t find work.

Earlier on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely admitted – as told to Likud members, taped, and broadcast Tuesday – that Israel cannot keep track of people sent to Rwanda and Uganda.

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