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Rwanda says ready to accept some 10,000 asylum seekers deported from Israel

An initial 750 people were released on Tuesday in small groups from Israel's Holot Detention Centre and more are to follow Wednesday
Menahem Kahana (AFP)
Negotiations aimed at securing the livelihoods and general welfare of the deportees are ongoing

Rwanda is ready to accept some 10,000 African asylum seekers currently living in Israel so long as they are not forcibly deported from the country, Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Thursday.

In an interview with Rwanda's English-language newspaper the New Times, Mushikiwabo said that "we have had discussions with Israel on receiving some of the immigrants and asylum seekers from this part of Africa who would be willing to come to Rwanda."

"If they are comfortable to come here, we would be willing to accommodate them. How it’s done and their livelihoods once they are here are details that have not been concluded yet," the minister said.

Israel's cabinet voted on Sunday to close the Holot migrant detention center in southern Israel, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an agreement to deport 40,000 Africans who entered the country illegally despite concerns about their fate. 

AFP/Menachem Kahana)

The decision gives migrants and asylum seekers a three-month deadline to leave the country or face deportation. It has been widely reported that the migrants will be deported to Rwanda, although the government has not confirmed this. 

A senior government official confirmed to Israel's Haaretz daily on Sunday that Israel will pay the Rwandan government $5,000 for every asylum seeker it absorbs, in addition to the $3,500 grant given to those who leave the country voluntarily.

Rwanda's foreign affairs minister said that negotiations are ongoing with Israel as to how to ensure the livelihoods, shelter, and general welfare needs of the 10,000 asylum seekers the country plans to take in from Israel.

"I think what we are looking for is for any migrant coming to settle here to have the minimum basics to have housing, to be able to stay in the country long enough while finding a job or setting up a business. We expect everyone to have a minimum of shelter," Mushikiwabo told the New Times.

"We do not envision people to come here and stay in camps. We envision giving them a normal life,” she said.

Menahem Kahana (AFP)

Rwanda's authoritarian president Paul Kagame has already taken thousands of "voluntary" returnees from Israel, under the auspices of a murky agreement that has never been made public. 

On Friday the UN refugee agency said they are worried by the fate of migrants who will be forcibly transferred to the small African state, saying in a statement that many of those who have already gone "have not found adequate safety or a durable solution to their plight and that many have subsequently attempted dangerous onward movements within Africa or to Europe."

Many of those who have taken the "Rwanda option" in recent years told activists that they were whisked through the country's international airport without their passports being stamped, and put up in a hotel before being shuttled into Uganda in the dead of the night. 

Israeli official figures from June 30 show a total of 38,043 African migrants in the country. They include 27,494 Eritreans and 7,869 Sudanese, and their presence in south Tel Aviv has raised discontent among Israelis there and elsewhere.

(Staff with agencies)

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