At a detention center in Israel’s Negev desert, African migrants facing deportation say they would rather be imprisoned than sent to a country they know nothing about.
“I won’t go there,” Abda Ishmael, a 28-year-old Eritrean, said in excellent Hebrew outside Holot, an open facility housing some 1,200 migrants and set to be shut down on April 1 as part of the government’s expulsion policy.
“Guys who were here and went to Rwanda and Uganda -– we saw what happened to them.”
Israel is working to expel thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese who entered illegally over the years, giving them an ultimatum: leave by April 1 or risk being imprisoned indefinitely.
As the migrants could face danger or imprisonment if returned to their homelands, Israel is offering to relocate them to an unnamed third country, which aid workers say is Rwanda or Uganda.
Those who choose to leave by the end of March are being offered a cash incentive of $3,500.
The plan has drawn criticism from the United Nations’ refugee agency as well as some in Israel, including Holocaust survivors who say the country has a special duty to protect migrants.
Eritreans at Holot say Rwanda and Uganda hold no prospects for them, and they’d rather be imprisoned in Israel than embark on another journey into the unknown.
Ishmael, who reached Israel in 2011 after a terrifying journey from Eritrea, has heard about the fates of others sent to Rwanda or Uganda.
He said they have faced hardships in their new homes and gone on to take dangerous routes to Europe in hope of winning refugee status.
He vowed he would not voluntarily step back into the unknown.
“We know of people who were killed by (the Islamic State group), who were killed on their way to Libya, who starved and died of thirst in the desert,” he said.
“These people were just seeking asylum.”
To Shishay Tewelde Medihin, 24, Rwanda and Uganda are “death countries” and Israel is “risking my life”.
He slammed an aid package Israel is reportedly planning to offer African countries in return for absorbing the migrants.
Tewelde Medihin said he planned to stay “indefinitely” in Saharonim prison, where migrants are expected to be sent if they refuse to leave.
According to interior ministry figures, there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, half of them children, women or men with families, who are not facing the April deportation deadline.
Israeli officials stress that no one they classify as a refugee or asylum seeker will be deported.
But out of some 15,400 asylum requests filed, 6,600 have been processed and just 11 have received positive answers.
Another 1,000 Sudanese from Darfur have received special status preventing their deportation.
Other men whose requests have been denied could face deportation.
Migrants began entering Israel through what was then a porous Egyptian border in 2007. The border has since been strengthened, all but ending illegal crossings.
Many migrants ended up in southern Tel Aviv, where they found work as dishwashers and cooks. But their growing community angered some Israelis.
Mozambique: Government set to impose license fees for local journalists.
Mozambican government has announced plans to introduce license fees for local and foreign journalists.
Local correspondents will pay $2,500 per trip for media accreditation while foreign correspondents living in Mozambique will be charged $8,300 per year.
Mozambican journalists reporting for foreign news outlets will be required to pay $3,500 for an annual accreditation.
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This is 50 times more than the country’s statutory minimum wage, estimated at around $70 per month.
The plan fees have attracted serious criticism as the move has been viewed as an apparent attempt to discourage reporting from the country.
Mozambique’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has warned that the imposition of licensing fees on the country’s mass media must not compromise the fundamental right of the public to information.
In a statement, the CNDH, added its voice to the chorus of criticism of the proposed fees.
It conceded that the government has the right to update licensing and accreditation fees, but said such a measure should not undermine the right to information.
The CNDH points out that the current legal framework on access to information “takes as its guidelines the greatest divulging of information and free access to information… In other words, access to information is a matter of public interest and this access should be promoted and facilitated”.
It added: “The legal framework meant that the relevant state bodies must take measures to promote the broadest possible access to information”.
CNDS also warns that the enormous fees imposed by the July decree are not in line with the guidelines contained in the legal instruments on the right to information that are in force in the country.
The justification given for the fees is that they are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the sector – but none of the money raised by the fees will go to the media.
The decree states that 60 percent of the money from the fees will go to the state budget, and the remaining 40 per cent will go to the government’s press office (Gabinfo).
Meanwhile, the government is showing signs of backing down.
On Tuesday, its spokesperson, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ana Comoana, said the decree will be discussed with interested parties before its implementation.
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BREAKING: Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan dies
Former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan died in the early hours of Saturday in Switzerland after a short illness, according to a statement issued by his family.
The Nobel Peace Laureate was the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from January 1997 to December 2006, and became the first black African man to take on the top job as the world’s top diplomat.
He had been a member of The Elders, a group of global leaders working for human rights, since it was founded in 2007. In 2013, he became its chairman.
He was founder and Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, which issued a statement on social media, saying: “It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness…”