April 20, 2018

Israel Makes U-turn, Cancels Deal To Resettle 16000 Africa Asylum Seekers

04 April 2018, 01:09 | Marta Robbins

Israel cancels deal with UN to resettle African migrants

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Under the five-year agreement with the UN refugee agency, some 16,250 African migrants who entered the country illegally, many of them seeking asylum, would be resettled in Western nations, which Mr Netanyahu had said included Germany, Italy and Canada.

"In the past 24 hours, I have held many consultations with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, with professionals and representatives of residents of southern Tel Aviv", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post.

"Meanwhile I am suspending the implementation of the agreement", he said.

A group of residents of southern Tel Aviv, where numerous migrants have settled, immediately denounced the new plan in a statement, calling it "a shame for the state of Israel".

The rest of the migrants would be resettled across Israel under the deal, which Netanyahu described as "the best possible".

Tens of thousands of Israelis and asylum seekers have protested Netanyahu's forced deportation plan, and on Monday had applauded the United Nations agreement and celebrated a major victory. A lot of them entered the country illegally via the land border with Egypt before a border fence was completed in 2012.

Hamas Chief, Ismail Haniyeh, called on the Arab League to take Israel to the International Criminal Court for its "crimes" against the peaceful demonstrations of the Land Day that were launched on Friday.

After meeting with opponents of the plan on Tuesday, Netanyahu declared that the plan negotiated with the UNHCR would not be implemented.

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He also said: "Despite the growing legal and worldwide difficulties, we will continue to act with determination to exhaust all the possibilities available to us to remove the infiltrators".

Teklit Michael, who came to Israel from Eritrea a decade ago, said he was delighted by the new deal. "We learned about this decision through the media", Spindler told reporters. The UN refugee agency said it violated local and worldwide laws, and large protests were held in Israel.

"We continue to believe in the need for an accord advantageous for all that can benefit Israel, the worldwide community and the people who need asylum, and we hope that Israel reconsiders its decision", said a UNHCR spokesperson.

These migrants were offered US$3,500 (S$3,937.50) to relocate to an unnamed "third country" - widely reported to be Uganda or Rwanda - or return to their home country.

Israel had begun handing out notices to male African migrants in February, warning them they had two months to leave the country or face jail.

More than 60% of asylum seekers from Sudan were granted similar status.

"The timing of this announcement, during Passover, could not have been more appropriate as these asylum seekers, like our ancestors, all crossed the Sinai in search of freedom".

Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, welcomed the move, calling the deal "very dangerous" for Israel. He called for the plan to be brought to the Cabinet for a vote.

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