13 September 2017

Uganda: Government Must Come Clean On Israel Refugees


On Wednesday last week, we reported about the Supreme court ruling in Israel that upheld the country's controversial policy of shipping unwanted African immigrants to Uganda and Rwanda.

However, the same court ordered that those who resist deportation can't be detained for longer than 60 days.

As they have done every time this long-running story comes up, government officials interviewed denied the existence of an agreement between Uganda and Israel to dump the mostly Eritrean and Sudanese refugees here.

However, their denial has not driven this story away as many indications suggest it has not been made up. Indeed, some journalists, including BBC and Al Jazeera reporters, have reported talking to some of the deportees in Uganda.

Our own Sunday Vision weighed in on September 10 with a lead story suggesting they had interviewed at least two of such individuals dumped in Uganda. So, who is fooling who and why? Why is the government so intent on keeping this under wraps?

If this is indeed fake news, as the government wants Ugandans to believe, why can't they openly demand that the Israeli government stop making this up and, in the process, damaging Uganda's international image?

If it's true, however, which is the most likely scenario, the government needs to own up and account to Ugandans. Who sanctioned such a deal, why, and what is in it for Uganda? Where are these people and what is their legal status in this country?

Uganda has been praised for its friendly policies towards refugees, especially in the face of at least one million arrivals from South Sudan. However, that policy has its limitations, especially given this country's own resource constraints.

Moreover, taking in refugees running away from conflict in neighbouring countries is different from entering a secret agreement with a foreign power to let in undocumented individuals without a clear legal basis.

The former is legitimate and defensible while the latter is opaque and unacceptable.

If the government can't come clean, the relevant parliamentary committee should interest itself in this matter. Ugandans deserve to know the truth.


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