KAMPALA (Reuters) - Rwanda and Uganda both said on Friday they had not struck any deal to take in African migrants from Israel under a scheme condemned by rights groups.
Israel said on Wednesday it would pay thousands of African migrants living illegally in the country to go home or to “third countries”, threatening them with jail if they are caught after the end of March.
The Israeli government did not say where the refugees should go. But rights groups including Hotline for Refugees and Migrants have said Uganda and Rwanda had agreed to take in migrants from Israel in the past.
“#Rwanda has no deal whatsoever with #Israel to host any African migrant from that country,” Rwanda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, tweeted on Friday.
His Ugandan counterpart, Okello Oryem, echoed the message.
“There is no written agreement or any form of agreement between the government of Uganda and Israeli government to accept refugees from Israel,” Oryem told Reuters.
Any suggestion to the contrary was “fake news ... absolute rubbish,” he added.
The vast majority of migrants in Israel came from Eritrea and Sudan and many say they fled war and persecution as well as economic hardship, but Israel treats them as economic migrants.
Rights groups have accused Israel of being slow to process African migrants’ asylum requests as a matter of policy and denying legitimate claims to the status.
Writing by Aaron Maasho; Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Andrew Heavens