JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government told the country’s Supreme Court it is “highly probable” that a third country will accept African asylum seekers deported by Israel.
The third country is widely reported to be Uganda, although that country denies it.
The state is asking the court to be allowed to extend the detention of 212 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants currently being held in a detention facility in southern Israel until a final deportation deal is reached. Human rights organizations are demanding their release.
The government reportedly sent a special envoy to Uganda, one of the countries with which a deportation agreement is said to have been signed prior to a deal — which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced and then rejected on Tuesday — with the United Nations.
Up to 40,000 African asylum seekers remain in Israel, their fate still unknown. Israel had originally offered any migrant who decided to leave $3,500 and a plane ticket.
But the daily newspaper Haaretz reported Thursday that Uganda will not accept African migrants who are expelled from Israel against their will.
“There is no special representative from the State of Israel who is in Uganda to coordinate anything,” the Ugandan government said in a statement obtained by Haaretz. “Israel should prove that they have sent a representative, who it is and who they are coordinating with. Uganda has no information whatsoever about this representative.”
The statement also reportedly said that Uganda would not receive African asylum seekers who were forcefully expelled from Israel: “There is absolutely no contract or any form of understanding between Uganda and Israel regarding receipt of refugees.”