Deportees and aid workers said the destination sketched in Netanyahu’s plan was either Rwanda or Uganda, although both countries denied that any such deal had been agreed.

Rights groups reported that Israel had offered the migrants $3,500 (2,800 euros) to relocate to Uganda or face indefinite imprisonment with eventual forced expulsion.

Netanyahu last week agreed to cancel the controversial plan and grant 16,000 migrants temporary residency with an equivalent number resettled in Western nations. But he reversed his position just hours later.

Appeal

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday said it did not know what had been agreed between Israel and Uganda and was seeking more information.

But it reiterated its appeal for the deal scuppered by Netanyahu — the Framework of Common Understanding — to be implemented, calling it a “win-win for everyone”.

“We have been appealing for Israel to halt its policy of relocating asylum-seekers to sub-Saharan Africa,” UNHCR spokesperson Duniya Khan said by phone from Nairobi.

Human rights groups have long condemned Israel for its immigration policy and treatment of Africans seeking a safe haven.

In reply, Israeli officials say that no-one they classify as a refugee or asylum seeker will be deported.

However, the process of granting asylum in Israel has been criticised as extremely slow and biased against claims. Only a handful of asylum claims have been approved in recent years.

Under a previous plan launched in 2013, more than 4,000 African migrants left Israel for Uganda and neighboring Rwanda, according to campaign groups.

Andie Lambe, executive director of International Refugee Rights Initiative, based in the Ugandan capital Kampala, said that migrants arriving under that scheme were denied official refugee status — something she wants to see change if the request announced on Friday goes ahead.

Lambe argued that the question remained, “Why can’t Israel simply accommodate these people?”