Netanyahu Agrees Asylum Seekers Will Only Be Deported to Rwanda According to International Law

Prime minister meets with Rwandan president in Davos to discuss plan to expel African migrants after Rwanda denied it agreed to take them in against their will

Netanyahu and Kagame meeting at Davos, January 24, 2018.
Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the two discussed the issue of African asylum seekers facing deportation from Israel and shared an understanding that migrants can only be deported according to rules dictated by international law.

Netanyahu's bureau stated that during the two leaders' meeting, "Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed with President Kagame, who emphasized that he will only accept a process that meets the demands of international law."

The prime minister congratulated Kagame for his new position as the chair of the African Union, and the two discussed a myriad of topics, including the extension of cooperation between Israel and Rwanda.

Earlier Wednesday, Rwanda firmly denied a report that it had signed a secret deal to take in the aforementioned refugees being expelled against their will.

Olivier Nduhungirehe, the minister of state in Rwanda's Foreign Ministry, tweeted Wednesday that "Rwanda will NEVER receive any African migrant who is deported against his/her will.

"Our open doors policy only applies to those who come to Rwanda voluntary, without any form of constraint. Any manipulation of women, men and children in distress is appalling," he wrote, sharing Haaretz's report about the Rwandan government denying the deal.

On Tuesday, Rwanda's government said that: "In reference to the rumors that have been recently spread in the media, the Government of Rwanda wishes to inform that it has never signed any secret deal with Israel regarding the relocation of African migrants."

"In this regard, Rwanda's policy vis-à-vis Africans in need of a home, temporary or permanent, within our country's means, remains 'open doors,'" it added.

Some 2,000 asylum seekers gathered earlier this week before the Rwandan embassy in Israel to protest government efforts to deport them. In recent days, the Population and Immigration Authority has begun telling Eritrean asylum seekers at the Holot detention center that they must leave for Rwanda or be imprisoned indefinitely at the Saharonim prison.

They called out in Hebrew, "Stop the unjustified hatred, refugees are people," "We don't buy racist plans," "Recognizing a refugee is a moral duty" and "We won't give in to despair, we will stop the deportation." Demonstrators held signs reading, among other slogans, "From refuge in Rwanda to trafficking in Libya, expulsion to Rwanda – a death sentence," "Black lives matter – not in Israel" and "Refugees are not for sale."