WASHINGTON (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would comply with international law when it deports African migrants.
Netanyahu met with Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, in Davos, Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum is taking place, and discussed a controversial plan to deport the nearly 40,000 African migrants currently in Israel.
“Regarding the migrant issue, Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed with President Kagame, who made clear that he would only accept a process that fully complies with international law,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement Wednesday following the meeting.
Netanyahu has said he plans to give the Africans now in Israel a choice of jail or deportation to an African country he has yet to name. Reports have said the countries are Rwanda and Uganda, but both countries have denied it. Wednesday’s statement was the first on-the-record indication from Israel that Rwanda was one of the designated countries.
Israel has ratified the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which does not forcee countries to accept asylum seekers, but obliges countries not to force them to be in danger.
Some 20,000 African migrants over recent years have voluntarily accepted Israeli offers to travel to African countries with $3,500 cash. Some have reported facing robbery, harassment, kidnapping and worse once they landed.
Human rights activists in Israel and major U.S. Jewish organizations have urged Netanyahu not to go ahead with the plan to force the migrants to choose between jail and deportation.