Israel Cancels Plan To Deport Africans

03 April, 2018, 03:01 | Author: Courtney Perry
  • Refugees in Israel

More than 16,000 asylum seekers will instead be resettled in Western countries, including Canada, Italy and Germany, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said he would meet on Tuesday with residents of southern Tel Aviv.

About 38,000 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants live in Israel.

Migrants began entering Israel through what was then a porous Egyptian border in 2007.

Hours after announcing the new arrangement, which would also give thousands of other migrants the right to stay in Israel, Netanyahu posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was putting its implementation on hold until further review.

Israel has said it considers the vast majority of the 35,000-40,000 migrants to be job seekers and has said it has no legal obligation to keep them.

The optics of black asylum seekers accusing the country of racism has turned into a public relations liability for Israel, and groups of Israeli doctors, academics, poets, Holocaust survivors, rabbis and pilots have all appealed to halt the plan.

As many as 39,000 illegal immigrants from Africa are living in Israel, about 5,000 of them children. The border has since been strengthened, all but ending illegal crossings.


"This agreement will ensure that protection is provided to those who need it", said Mr Volker Türk, UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection, who signed the agreement on behalf of the United Nations.

At a press conference later in the day, Netanyahu identified Canada, Germany, and Italy as some of the countries set to host the migrants.

In February, Israeli authorities started handing out notices to 20,000 male African migrants giving them two months to leave for a third country in Africa or risk being put in jail indefinitely.

As the migrants could face danger or imprisonment if returned to their homelands, Israel offered to relocate them to an unnamed African country, which deportees and aid workers said was Rwanda or Uganda. The right-wing government has been under pressure from its nationalist voter base to expel the migrants.

According to NAN, They had initially been given a deadline of April 1, but Israel's supreme court suspended the plan on March 15 while it continued to examine it.

The Africans, almost all from dictatorial Eritrea and war-torn Sudan, say they fled for their lives and faced renewed danger if they returned. Mr Netanyahu's office described the agreement as "unprecedented". Israel has granted asylum to fewer than one percent of those who have applied and has a years-long backlog of applicants.

The initial deportation was called off "because of legal considerations and diplomatic difficulties concerning third-party countries". It says the new framework will include a development and rehabilitation plan for southern Tel Aviv. The UN Refugee Agency said it violated local and global laws.

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