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Israel sends African asylum seekers to Uganda

Israel has started a secret operation to send African asylum seekers to Uganda, a senior government official said.

The official said that in the past month dozens of asylum seekers agreed to be moved there.

A Sudanese citizen, who left Israel for Uganda last month, said he was on a plane with six other Sudanese asylum seekers. They had all agreed to be moved to Uganda in return for being released from Saharonim detention center, Negev.

The man also said he had received $3,500 for leaving the country as part of Israel's "voluntary departure" procedure.

Haaretz quoted the director of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Reut Michaeli, as saying on Wednesday, "The State of Israel is proposing to asylum seekers a return to Uganda with no assurances or official agreement," She added that as far as her organisation knows, the asylum seekers will not receive legal status in Uganda and they will not have any papers allowing them to leave if they want to.

"In addition to all that, it is known that Uganda deports asylum seekers to their countries of origin," Michaeli pointed out.

Israel did not inform the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that asylum seekers were being made to leave noting that the UN refuses to consider the idea of giving people a choice between long term imprisonment and returning to their country as this is a matter of personal freedom

Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar said on Wednesday that it was projected that this month some 1,500 asylum seekers would be leaving Israel, compared to 765 in January, 325 in December and 63 in November.

Meanwhile, hundreds of asylum seekers marched in protest of the new procedure, from the Holot detention centre in the desert to Tel Aviv. They are calling for the release of all the detainees and asking that their asylum applications be processed.

According to the Population and Immigration Authority, as of September 2013 there were 53,646 asylum seekers from Africa in Israel, including 13,249 Sudanese and 35,987 Eritreans.

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