Rwanda refuses to discuss migrants with Israeli opposition

African migrants and Israeli activists demonstrate outside the Embassy of Rwanda in Herzliya against the Israeli government’s policy to forcibly deport African refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Rwanda refuses to discuss migrants with Israeli opposition

KIGALI:Rwanda said Friday it wanted no part in Israel’s “internal politics” after turning away two opposition Israeli lawmakers who wanted to discuss their country’s controversial plan to deport African migrants and asylum seekers.
The MPs said they had come to Rwanda on a “fact-finding mission” to discuss Israel government policy to expel about 38,000 migrants who have entered the country illegally, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese.
As the migrants could face danger or imprisonment if returned to their homelands, Israel is offering to relocate them to an unnamed third country, which aid workers say is Rwanda or Uganda.
But Rwandan authorities refused to meet the Israeli lawmakers.
“Rwanda cannot be a playground for Israeli internal politics. We deal with governments and we only receive foreign officials that are announced and cleared by their foreign ministries,” Foreign Affairs minister Olivier Nduhungirehe told AFP.
“If any Israeli MP has any issue with his or her government about African migrants who are in Israel, he or she should deal with the Israeli government, not ours.”
The Israli government has given the migrants an ultimatum: leave by April 1 or risk being imprisoned indefinitely.
Public opposition to the plan in Israel has been slow to build, but some Israeli airline pilots have reportedly said they will not fly forced deportees.
“We are on a fact-finding mission to Rwanda because we want to ascertain the truth,” Michal Rozin, an Israeli MP for the leftwing opposition party Meretz, told AFP.
“We sent out requests for meetings with Rwandan officials over the illegally planned deportation of Eritrean asylum seekers to Rwanda from Israel, but officials declined to meet us and we wonder why,” she said.
Both countries have denied a secret deal to take in the migrants is in place.
The UN refugee agency has said about 4,000 migrants were deported from Israel to Rwanda between 2013 and 2017.
However only seven remain in Rwanda, according to UNHCR, with many fleeing poor conditions to neighboring countries — particularly Uganda — or heading for Europe.
“It is clear that once the refugees are sent to Rwanda from Israel, they are not offered the basic necessities like jobs and housing that they are promised,” said Mossi Raz, a Meretz MP and the other member of the Israeli delegation.
“That is why we insist that any deal that is in place to force their deportation to Rwanda should be immediately abandoned,” he said.
The UN has condemned Israel’s expulsion policy, which offers each migrant $3,500 (2,900 euros) and a plane ticket, as incoherent and unsafe.


Co-author defends UN migration pact as opposition swells

Migrants from poor Central American countries -mostly Hondurans- moving towards the United States in hopes of a better life. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Co-author defends UN migration pact as opposition swells

ZURICH: The Swiss diplomat who helped negotiate a United Nations migration pact has defended the accord against mounting criticism, saying it helps small countries like Switzerland defend their interests.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was instigated after the migration crisis in Europe in 2015, which saw the biggest influx of refugees and migrants since World War II. The crisis strained resources and triggered fear of foreigners and nationalist tensions.

It was approved in July by all 193 member nations except the US, which backed out last year.

The comments from Pietro Mona, Swiss ambassador in charge of development and migration policy, come amid growing opposition to the accord, with Hungary’s right-wing government saying it will not sign the final document at a ceremony in Morocco in December.

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Austria pulled out too last month, and the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic have cast doubt on their countries’ joining.

Mona said Swiss negotiators deserved credit for having the pact become the first international document to set out states’ obligation to cooperate in taking back citizens.

“The migration pact gives us an additional instrument that helps us negotiate repatriation agreements, for instance with countries like Eritrea,” he said in an interview with the Blick tabloid, published on Monday.

After some hesitation, the Swiss government said last month it would sign the compact while clarifying its position on detaining minors from the age of 15 pending deportation, which Swiss law allows but the non-binding UN pact discourages.

Since then, committees in both houses of Parliament have called for delaying the Swiss signature and giving Parliament — and perhaps voters in a referendum — the chance to decide the matter.

Some politicians, especially from the right, complain that the pact could blur the line between legal and illegal migration and undermine countries’ sovereignty.

UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour has called moves to shun the accord regrettable and mistaken and said the compact simply aimed to improve the management of cross-border movements of people.

The UN pact addresses issues such as how to protect people who migrate, how to integrate them into new countries and how to return them to their home countries. The UN has hailed it as a historic and comprehensive pact that could serve as a basis for future policies.