A report issued in Belgium last month appears to cast doubt on the claim that Sudanese refugees who were deported back to Sudan faced torture and abuse, Israeli officials recently learned.
The report comes amid a heated dispute in Israel, where African migrants are facing imminent deportation. Many in Israel argue that deporting the illegal migrants from Israel back to Africa would place their lives in danger, while the state argues that migrants will be completely safe.
Most asylum seekers in Israel come from either Sudan or Eritrea. Earlier this year 20,000 male African migrants were instructed to leave the country by April.
The report, compiled by the Belgian Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons, argues that there is nothing preventing the deportation of migrants to Sudan.
The Belgian government asked the office to investigate allegations made by human rights organization Tahrir Institute, asserting that Sudanese migrants were tortured upon returning to Sudan. The Tahrir Institute report came after Belgian immigration authorities asked representatives of the Sudanese government to help speed up the deportation of illegal Sudanese migrants back to their country.
Dirk van den Bulck, the Belgian commissioner general for refugees and stateless persons, published the findings of his investigation into the Tahrir Institute's report on February 8. It was determined, based on a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, that in principle, there is nothing legally preventing the return of illegal Sudanese migrants to Sudan. The only problems likely to arise, the report said, pertain to specific individuals who are political activists or those opposing the Sudanese regime.
In addition, the report severely criticized the testimonies and evidence presented by the Tahrir Institute. Van den Bulck contacted the authors of the report and received conflicting information. He then tried to corroborate the claims.
Ultimately, however, he said he could not confirm whether the incidents described in Tahrir's report – of aggression against deported Sudanese migrants – actually happened. In addition, significant portions of the key testimonies presented in the report were found to be fictitious, to the extent that they cast heavy doubts on the remainder of the testimonies.
Van den Bulck said he received no new details that could confirm the allegations, having interviewed one of the Tahrir report's authors, Dr. Koert Debeuf, as well as a witness he called a "Sudanese refugee" and correspondence with those who returned to Sudan on the WhatsApp messaging application.
Despite this, van den Bulck determined that "differences were found between the original WhatsApp conversations and the quotes presented in the report." Even when he delved into individual testimonies, he encountered difficulties and discovered that "in a large part of the existing evidence there are details that contradict reality."
Yonatan Yaakobovich of the Center for Israeli Immigration Policy said that the "report joins English and Australian reports, court rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and also Italy and France, which prove that a large portion of the infiltrators from Sudan can return to their country without worry."
According to Yaakobovich, doubts about the evidence may also be relevant for Israel's deportation plan, "as there are those who seek to stop it through evidence given by anonymous infiltrators."