World Bulletin / News Desk
Uganda has revealed Friday that Israel has requested that Kampala take in 500 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees.
Addressing journalists in Kampala, State Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Musa Ecweru said: “The state of Israel working with other refugee managing organizations has requested Uganda to allow about 500 Eritreans and Sudanese refugees to relocate to Uganda.”
He added that all applicants shall have to undergo a rigorous vetting process to ascertain their suitability for grant of asylum in Uganda.
“The eligibility committee is standing by just to receive the first batch and we’ll process them through the assessment and those who will meet our criteria will certainly be granted asylum immediately,” said Ecweru.
Last summer, Netanyahu vowed to deport “infiltrators” from Africa -- a pledge that has since become a rallying cry amid his far-right supporters in the run-up to polls slated for next year.
Netanyahu’s government, however, has come under immense international pressure to halt its “discriminatory” treatment of African asylum-seekers following revelations that deportees would be sent to Rwanda and Uganda.
In February, an Israeli appeals court ruled that Eritreans who deserted military service in their home country and came to Israel had grounds to be considered asylum seekers.
According to Isreali media, the court stated that there was a well-founded fear of persecution because of political opinion ascribed to them by the authorities in Eritrea as a result of desertion from military service.
Israel has until now refused to process the vast majority of asylum seeker applications.
In early April, Israel cancelled plans to deport thousands of African migrants and asylum-seekers after reaching an agreement with the UNHCR, the UN’s main refugee agency.
Under the deal, Israel would have sent 16,250 African migrants to western countries, while thousands more would have been granted temporary (five-year) residency in Israel.
However hours after announcing the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the deal.
Israel is currently home to some 40,000 asylum seekers, including 27,500 from Eritrea and 7,800 from Sudan, according to UNHCR figures.
Since 2012, Israel has deported roughly 20,000 African migrants and asylum-seekers who had entered the country illegally.
Uganda’s refugee population is close to 2 million.