Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Israel's top court orders 207 African migrants freed from detention

Date: 15.4.18 Source: i24News

Israel's High Court of Justice ordered the immediate release of all 207 African migrants currently being held in detention for refusing deportation orders and extended a freeze on the state's controversial expulsion plan after it failed to present an updated agreement with a "third country" to take in the asylum-seekers.

The court's reasoning stated that "in the absence of an updated agreement as stated with the 'third state', there is no longer any reason to continue holding them [the African asylum-seekers] in custody."

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told the court that negotiations with Uganda were ongoing, after insisting last week for the court to provide the state more time to reach a suitable arrangement.

Having failed to cement the deal as of the Sunday deadline set by the court, the justices ordered that those asylum-seekers being held in the Saharonim Prison in Israel’s Negev region for refusing to leave the country be released from detention.

The High Court issued a freeze on the deportations of some 40,000 African migrants, mainly from Eritrea and South Sudan, last month amid an increasingly heated climate around the issue.

Just on Friday, Uganda seemed to agree to accept 500 asylum seekers, but the statement from a government minister was unclear, saying: "The Government and Ministry are positively considering the request."

"I'm talking about people who ran to Israel as refugees and were granted asylum and now wish to relocate to a third party country and because of the understanding between Uganda and Israel," the Ugandan minister Musa Ecweru said.

The Israeli government told the Supreme Court last week that they had dispatched an envoy to Uganda in order to assess the country's suitability to accept some of the African migrants that Israel wishes to deport.

The Ugandan government had previously vehemently denied that an envoy had been sent or that the country was striking a deal with Israel.

Ecwera also repeated the government's denial that any African migrants have previously gone to Uganda, an assertion contradicted by testimonies from dozens of the hundreds who did so.

Uganda already hosts 1.4 million refugees from nearby crises in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Earlier in April, the Red Cross said that more than 40 people who fled fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo have died from cholera at a refugee camp in Uganda.

The Red Cross said the influx has overwhelmed hospitals and led to squalid conditions in refugee camps, fueling the outbreak that started in mid-February.