By Oren Ziv
KAMPALA, Uganda — “Why should Uganda take in the people Israel doesn’t want?” asks Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, a Ugandan member of parliament who joined us in a cafe in central Kampala.
“If they’re being sent by the UN, they’ll be treated like all refugees, in a temporary manner because of the problems in their countries,” Nganda continues. He insisted on meeting us, after hearing that a small delegation of Knesset members was visiting his country from Israel. “Uganda will not become a dumping ground that whoever thinks they cannot host people — that you throw them in another country.”
We had just left Rwanda — with many questions. One thing, however, had become very clear: Rwanda is not a final destination for the refugees Israel is sending there. There is a well-oiled machine that pushes them out of the country as soon as possible. Of the several thousand asylum seekers that Israel has already deported to Rwanda, we are told that only eight remain there. The rest crossed the border into neighboring Uganda.
A sense of freedom
The short flight from Kigali, the Rwandan capital, drops us off in the dark, dilapidated airport at Entebbe, Uganda. From there, we take a van straight to Kampala, where we stay for the next few days. Our small delegation is made up of members of Knesset Mossi Raz and Michal Rozin of Meretz, two of their spokespeople, refugee rights attorney Asaf Weitzen, and myself.
Our plan is to trace the path of the asylum seekers whom Israel plans to deport — and those it has already pushed out — and try to learn any information we can about the secret agreements reportedly reached between Israel and both Rwanda and Uganda. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments deny that any such deals even exist.
In Uganda we do not sense the same fear that had seemed to grip Rwanda, where people were reluctant to speak to foreigners for fear of repercussions from the security forces. It had been impossible to take photos or video in cafes, where the number of security personnel and metal detectors would put even Israel to shame. In contrast, the chaos, colorful tumult, and congested roads in Kampala give off a sense of freedom.
Foreigners in a strange country
We arrive at Najana Kombi, a crowded refugee neighborhood without paved roads. Far from the city center,...Read More