The Israeli government on Thursday said there was a “high probability” an unnamed country, widely reported to be Uganda, would absorb African migrants deported from Israel, The Times of Israel reports.
In a document submitted to the High Court of Justice, the state requested permission to extend the detention of 212 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in a holding facility in southern Israel until a final deportation deal was reached.
After dispatching a special envoy on Wednesday for negotiations with the unnamed country, the state argued the talks were encouraging, but said more time was needed to clinch a final agreement.
The attorney general has been updated on the “high probability” of an imminent deal, it said.
The state’s assessment was laid out in a response to a High Court petition filed on behalf of a slew of human rights organizations that argued that the continued imprisonment of the asylum seekers was illegal.
On Wednesday, 58 African asylum seekers were freed from the Saharonim Prison after a controversial plan to deport them to Rwanda fell apart.
The state informed the court on Wednesday it will free the remaining Saharonim detainees if the agreement with the “second country” similarly collapses. That deal was also believed to be imperiled as Uganda said Tuesday it will not accept asylum seekers from the Jewish state.
Following a swarm of rumors, the East African country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Henry Okello Oryem on Tuesday denied the existence of an agreement with Israel on the issue.
“We will insist that the airlines return them (the asylum seekers) to the country where they came from,” he said in a statement. “We do not have a contract, any understanding, formal or informal, with Israel for them to dump their refugees here.”
Eitay Mack, the attorney who filed the High Court petition on behalf of the rights groups, told The Times of Israel on Wednesday that he expected the deal with Uganda to break down, similar to the previous one with Rwanda, leaving the government with no choice but to release the remaining asylum seekers at Saharonim.