The High Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s attorney general has five days to approve the highly-contested deportation plan of African asylum seekers to a “third country” or, once the set deadline passes, those currently jailed will be released.
“In the absence of an up-to-date deal…there is no longer justification to detain them,” judges stated, according to the Times of Israel.
After several setbacks, including nixed deals with Rwanda and the UN, the Israeli government submitted a plan to the Israeli High Court of Justice on Tuesday regarding its plan to deport roughly 32,500 African migrants from Eritrea and Sudan.
According to Hadashot TV news, citing senior interior ministry sources, Israel was expected to tell the Supreme Court on Tuesday that deportations to Uganda will begin soon. However, it appears the court rejected this bid.
During a hearing, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut asked the state’s attorney Shosh Shmueli, “if you loaded up a plane full of asylum seekers, would they be guaranteed asylum [when they arrived] or not?”
“According to the attorney general, there is a high probability that they will be,” Shmueli said.
“Then there is no deal.You are simply holding people in detention,” Hayut replied, the Times of Israel reported.
At least several hundred African migrants voluntarily departed Israel for Uganda in recent years in exchange for $3,500 payments, although both governments denied it.
Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scuppered a UN-brokered deal to resettle 16,250 in Western countries while granting several thousand more temporary status, Israel has reportedly struck a new deal with Uganda, although Uganda denied any agreement to allow Israel to “dump” asylum seekers in the country.
Hadashot reported that despite Uganda’s protestations in the media, it has not officially withdrawn from the deal.
A plan to deport the migrants to Rwanda was scrapped, with officials from the country not only denying any deal between the two countries, but also publicly refusing to take in any refugees from Israel.
Interior ministry officials cited by Hadashot warned, however, that Uganda could still follow Rwanda’s lead and formally jettison the agreement.
Separately, Ynet reported on last Tuesday, without citing sources, that Israel made payments to an unnamed African country in March and April as payment for accepting deported asylum-seekers.
The migrant issue has also taken on a public health angle. On Monday, Sweden-based Eritrean activist Meron Estafanos told Haaretz that 52 migrants deported from Israel to Uganda told her that they were not inoculated against yellow fever, which the Ugandan president’s office said was mandatory for visitors to the country.
Some of the 52 told Estafanos that they were ushered aside by an official upon landing in the capital, Kampala, and were not required to show documentation of their vaccination.
They said they were not told by Israel that the shots were required. Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the claims.
Uganda, a small land-locked state in Africa, already hosts over a million refugees from conflicts and humanitarian crises in neighboring Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.