Israel scraps plan to send African migrants to West

Israel scraps plan to send African migrants to West

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has nixed a deal with United Nations refugee agency UNHCR regarding the deportation of African migrants and asylum-seekers. "Therefore, I made a decision to meet, together with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, with representatives of the residents of southern Tel Aviv tomorrow [Wednesday] morning".

He said in a late-night Facebook post on Monday he was suspending the agreement that would have allowed thousands of the migrants to remain in Israel at least temporarily.

The cancellation on Tuesday afternoon came a day after the agreement was first announced and hours after the prime minister said he would freeze the agreement in order to consult with members of his government coalition and with the residents of southern Tel Aviv, where numerous migrants live.

The deal includes plans to integrate and give legal status to those who will remain in Israel.

It was halted by the Supreme Court, says The Times of Israel, after asylum seekers who had been deported said they were facing "serious danger and even imprisonment after arriving in Africa without proper documents".

Jaswal said the federal government still plans to meet its goal.

After meeting with opponents of the plan on Tuesday, Netanyahu declared that the plan negotiated with the UNHCR would not be implemented. "Its approval would cause generations of crying and determine a precedent in Israel granting residency for illegal infiltrators", he said. He said the deal would apply only to migrants now in Israel.

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Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, tweeted shortly before Netanyahu's statement nullifying the deal that the agreement "is bad for Israel".

Rwanda's minister of state for foreign affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, says no deal was ever signed with Israel, adding that "we have a general open policy on the refugees but our condition is that those migrants must be willing to come to Rwanda without any form of constraint". Israel has said it considers the vast majority of the 35,000 to 40,000 migrants to be job seekers and has said it has no legal obligation to keep them. But the Supreme Court intervened, freezing such deportations in March, and Netanyahu said Rwanda had buckled to global pressure and reneged on the deal.

"As asylum seekers we don't care where we are going to be as long as it is a safe place, and these countries are willing to protect us and we can live with human dignity", he said.

Within hours, Netanyahu called off the resettlement plan.

The issue has divided Israel for a decade and drawn fierce criticism.

Netanyahu's announcement Monday, which hailed the agreement as a victory for Israel and the rule of law, prompted a major backlash from coalition partners and activists calling for the removal of infiltrators from south Tel Aviv, where a majority of the almost 40,000 infiltrators reside.