Netanyahu suspends Israel-UN deal on resettling African migrants
03 April, 2018, 03:00
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday (April 2) he would scrap controversial plans to deport African asylum-seekers, saying he had reached an "unprecedented understanding" with the United Nations to help resettle many of these migrants in Western countries.
Under a deal reached with the UNHCR just hours before the Israeli premier's announcement, over 16,000 migrants and refugees would be sent to various Western countries, while much of those remaining in Israel would be granted official status.
Naija News recalls that the Israeli President has earlier this year announced the plan to implore illegal Africans Immigrant to leave the country voluntarily or or facing indefinite imprisonment with eventual forced expulsion.
Israel considers the vast majority of the almost 40,000 migrants to be job seekers and has said it has no legal obligation to keep them.
The Israeli government has offered migrants, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea, $3,500 and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination in another country in sub-Saharan Africa, which Israeli media reports identified as Rwanda.
But Netanyahu said that he had to abandon the initial plan because the option of sending them to a third country "no longer exists".
Rights groups had challenged the deportation in Israel's High Court, which on March 15 issued a temporary order that froze its implementation.
Two of those countries, Uganda and Rwanda, refused to accept the African asylum seekers once they learned Israel meant to deport them by force, reports Haaretz.
Religious and conservative politicians have portrayed the presence of Muslim and Christian Africans as a threat to Israel's Jewish character.
Under the new five-year plan, Israel will monitor the status of those not being resettled - signalling they will be allowed to stay at least temporarily.
Most arrived in Israel in the second half of the last decade, crossing from Egypt before the route was sealed.
Numerous migrants have flocked in recent years to neighbourhoods in southern Tel Aviv, rapidly changing the historically working-class areas into what has become known as "Little Africa" and sparking tension with the local Jewish population.
Some Holot inmates were transferred to the nearby Saharonim prison.
A man originally from Eritrea stands outside an Israeli immigration office, holding a document giving him 60 days to leave Israel or face imprisonment.
Those released were barred from living or working in seven cities with high migrant populations, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
Mr Bottinick said that one aim would be to train asylum-seekers in sectors where they have a competitive advantage.
Those opposed to the original plan included Holocaust survivors who say the country has a special duty to protect migrants.
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