Last week, Israel has announced that it is willing to pay Rwanda $5000 for every refugee relocated to its country. This declaration has come after Israel’s plan to close the Holot detention centre for African Migrants which is home to thousands of refugees, early next year. The Rwandan Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo is eager to accept Israel’s offer, stating that “any migrant coming to settle here will be entitled to the minimum basics to secure overall well-being”. However, many asylum seekers are currently panicking that they may be deported against their will, as conditions for refugee’s in Rwanda are widely known to be undesirable due to the lack of resources to accommodate detainees properly.
Volker Turk, from the UNHCR, has condemned Israel’s declaration to pay Rwanda to accommodate its deported refugees stating that, “as party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Israel has legal obligations to protect refugees and other persons in need of international protection”. Dror Sadot, a spokeswoman for the Hotline for Migrants and Refugees has responded to Israel’s breach of the convention by commenting that ‘the state of Israel has deteriorated to the lowest level’. Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister, contends that “Rwanda has a very open and progressive policy when it comes to people living and settling in this country”. However, human rights organisations have accumulated recent information suggesting that often, refugees deported from Israel have not found safety and shelter in Rwanda, and consequently been forced to continue on their journey through Africa to find asylum, on which many met their deaths.
Many activists have argued that by paying Rwanda to accommodate its refugees, Israel is ultimately “putting a price on human life”, and “abdicating is a responsibility to maintain a humane asylum policy for survivors of torture and genocide”. It is evident that Israel’s choice to relocate its refugees, against their will, highlights the Israeli government’s lack of empathy for the thousands of individuals who have survived torturous conditions to salvage a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
Israel is currently home to 40,000 asylum seekers according to government figures. For years, the Israeli government has created an environment in which these asylum seekers are made to feel unwelcome. Through restrictive laws; such as preventing refugees from securing work, the threat of detention in prison, and limits on their movement and access to education, Israel has undeniably failed at maintaining a humane asylum policy. Furthermore, there is very little transparency concerning Israel’s deportation policy, making it almost impossible for humanitarian organisation including UNHCR to monitor the situation of refugees relocated to countries such as Rwanda.
The current situation of refugees seeking asylum in Israel is bleak, and it is unlikely that they will encounter more favourable conditions if deported to Rwanda. It is deplorable the conditions in which refugees are forced to live, whereby basic human rights are neglected by governments such as Israel’s. I contend that worldwide governments should redress their policies for asylum seekers. In fact, they should be more empathetic for the millions of individuals every year, who have endured traumatic circumstances searching for better living conditions.
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