Israel’s ambassador to Ghana reportedly said Tuesday that it would be a joke for Ghanians to seek refuge in the Jewish state, since their country is one of the top democracies in the world.
“In the last four years, 2014 to 2017, 381 Ghanaians were seeking…asylum in Israel,” Ami Mehl told media, according to the Ghana Web news site. “Really? Ghanaians need refuge in Israel? It’s a joke. This is not serious. Ghana is one of the most democratic countries in the world.”
However, he said that genuine refugees would not be deported from Israel.
“Those who are seeking…refuge are not going to be deported,” he said. “They are going to be checked and if there is a reason for them to stay, they will stay. If there is no reason being refugees, they will leave. But it will take time.”
Although Ghana is a democracy and scores relatively highly in indices of good government, homosexuality is banned in the country, and some 1,000 women have been accused of witchcraft.
Mehl also spoke of the benefits of Israeli higher education and encouraged Ghanians to study there.
There are approximately 38,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Interior Ministry. About 72 percent are Eritrean and 20% are Sudanese. The vast majority arrived between 2006 and 2012. A law approved by the Knesset in December stipulates that the Interior Ministry will deport asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda starting in March.
People with open asylum applications cannot be deported before the applications are resolved. At this point, women and children are also not under threat of deportation. An asylum seeker who refuses deportation will be imprisoned indefinitely in the Saharonim prison.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees is currently negotiating with Israel and foreign governments to resettle a portion of African asylum seekers in third countries deemed by the UN to be “safe,” possibly including Western countries, in exchange for some of the refugees to be given permanent residency in Israel.
In recent weeks, groups of Israeli pilots, doctors, writers, former ambassadors and Holocaust survivors have appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the deportation plan, warning it was unethical and would cause grave damage to Israel’s self-described image as a light unto the nations.
Netanyahu said earlier this month, however, that “genuine refugees and their families will remain in Israel. We have no obligation to allow illegal labor migrants who are not refugees to remain here.”