The Ugandan government is considering Israel's request that it take in hundreds of asylum seekers, a statement said Friday.
"In view [of the fact that] Israel [is] working with other refuge organizations, [it] has requested Uganda to allow about 500 Eritreans and Sudanese refugees to relocate to Uganda. The Government and [relevant] ministry are positively considering the request," a statement for Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Musa Francis Ecweru said.
The government has said it plans to deport the Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Uganda. But senior Ugandan officials have repeatedly and sweepingly denied any such intent. Until now, Uganda has accepted only people who left Israel voluntarily.
On Friday, Haaretz reported that Uganda says the supposedly official documents that Israel gives departing asylum seekers are “complete fakes.” The Population, Immigration and Border Authority issues deportees documents bearing the Ugandan Interior Ministry insignia. They are not signed by anyone in the Israeli authority. Officials in the Ugandan president’s office say they are forgeries “bearing no resemblance to any document our government issues.”
In court this week, Israel insisted that it was close to signing an amended agreement with Uganda that would let it send the asylum seekers there – even against their will.
Last month, Israel's the court temporarily halted the expulsion of asylum seekers. This week, justices also asked the state about its claim it had signed agreements to send asylum seekers to two countries, Rwanda and Uganda. Also last week, the state abruptly canceled plans to send them to Rwanda after the country made clear it was unwilling to take them.
The government subsequently unveiled an agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, under which Western countries would take about half of the asylum seekers and Israel would grant legal status to the rest. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scrapped that deal the next day.
Ugandan officials have repeatedly said they won’t accept asylum seekers who are deported involuntarily. In response to a question from Haaretz last week, a Ugandan presidential spokeswoman said, “Uganda is not ready to take any asylum seekers from Israel without their consent,” adding that this had already been made clear by the country’s foreign minister.
She also denied that Uganda had any agreement whatsoever with Israel about the asylum seekers and denied that Netanyahu had ever discussed the issue with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
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