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.


US envoy in Russia skips key event

Jon Huntsman Jr. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2018
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US envoy in Russia skips key event

  • Vekselberg predicted Washington and Moscow would get past their crisis in relations eventually
  • Russian denies any interference and the Trump White House denies collusion with Moscow

MOSCOW: US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. stayed away from an event on Friday that would have required him to be in the same room as Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian metals tycoon subject to US sanctions.
Huntsman had initially been scheduled to be part of a panel discussion on US-Russian business ties as part of the St. Petersburg investment forum, a Kremlin-backed annual showcase for the Russian economy.
Vekselberg was on the panel of speakers at the session on Friday along with US and Russian business executives, but the ambassador was not there.
Asked why he was absent, the US Embassy in Moscow referred questions to the State Department in Washington. It did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment. Reuters
One of the panelists, Russian foods tycoon David Yakobashvili, said of Huntsman: “Unfortunately he is not here, but I am sure he is here in spirit.” Reuters