Seven leading Israeli human rights organizations have written to Rwandan President Paul Kagame insisting that his country not accept refugees forced out of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Kagame met last week in Nairobi, Kenya where they finalized an agreement that would transfer thousands of African refugees from Israel to Rwanda.
While Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken publicly in Israel about his intention to force refugees to leave for Rwanda, Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told The New York Times last week that Rwanda will only consider accepting refugees who leave Israel on their own free will. The discrepancy in the positions of the two states has caused a public storm in Israel.
Leading Israeli human rights organizations have now asked for a clarification from President Paul Kagame: “We are turning to you, and to the people of Rwanda, with an urgent request. Rwanda and Israel have an ongoing special relationship. However, this relationship cannot include trading in African lives. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is telling the Israeli public that Rwanda has agreed to take African refugees from Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu says that the refugees will be forced to leave: if they do not agree to go to Rwanda, they will be put in prison forever.”
The letter sent by the Israeli human rights organizations goes on to say that “We trust in you, and the people of Rwanda, that you will not agree to this denial of liberty. We hope and trust you will not agree that African refugees can be caged and traded in this way. We call on you to make it clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu – Rwanda will not take refugees who do not come on their own free will. We urge you to use your friendship with Netanyahu to remind him – Israel is a country of refugees, it should open its heart to those who have fled Eritrea and Sudan and give them shelter.”
The letter was signed by the following Israeli human rights organizations: ASSAF-Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International Israel, Kav La’Oved – Workers’ Hotline and HIAS Israel.