Dehai News

(DW) Israel reaches migrant deal with the UN after protests

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Monday, 02 April 2018

NEWS Date 02.04.2018

Israel reaches migrant deal with the UN after protests

After protests in the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel canceled a controversial mass deportation of African refugees. About 16,000 migrants will be settled in Germany, Canada and Italy.

African migrants protest in Israel

Israel and the United Nations reached a deal on Monday to send some 16,000 African asylum seekersto Western counties, nixing a controversial deportation plan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that other migrants will be allowed to stay in Israel for at least five years.

"Israel and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have reached unprecedented understandings for the departure of at least 16,250 migrants ... to Western nations," said Netanyahu's office in a statement. Later, the prime minister identified these countries as Germany, Canada and Italy. The UN has yet to confirm this.

The country founded as a haven for Jews fleeing persecution and conflict has faced the moral dilemma of dealing with some 37,000 Africans, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, whom it says entered the country irregularly.

Netanyahu: 'Ilegal infiltrators'

The issue has pitted right-wing nationalists, who argue that the presence of Christian and Muslim immigrants are a threat to the country's identity as a Jewish state, against progressives and Holocaust survivors who say Israel's history means it ought to take in refugees fleeing conflict and starvation. Netanyahu, for his part, has referred to the asylum seekers as "illegal infiltrators."

In February, about 20,000 male migrants were handed notices that said they had two months or leave the country or risk facing prison time. In a move sharply criticized by the UN, some of them were offered incentives of $3,500 and a plane ticket to an undisclosed "safe country," which, according to Israeli media, was Rwanda.

The plan sparked protests in Tel Aviv, where thousands of African refugees have settled in a cluster of neighborhoods known as "Little Africa."

Netanyahu's office cited legal and logistical problems for its deal with the UN, though it appeared the protests and international criticism has also played a role. It further argued that no one who has been approved for asylum would be deported, but Israel has only approved a handful of asylum claims in recent years.

es/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Israel backtracks on forced deportation of African asylum seekers

Deal reached with UN to send half to western countries instead of African nations



The Israeli government had planned to give the asylum seekers a choice between expulsion and indefinite imprisonment. Heidi Levine / Sipa PressThe Israeli government had planned to give the asylum seekers a choice between expulsion and indefinite imprisonment. Heidi Levine / Sipa Press

The Israeli government announced Monday that it was scrapping controversial plans for a mass expulsion of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda, yielding to legal and public pressure against the move.

Instead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an agreement had been reached with the UN refugee agency, the UN High Commission on Refugees, providing for 16,250 of the asylum seekers to be resettled to Western countries including Canada, Germany and Italy. According to the agreement, an equal number is to be granted temporary residency status in Israel for five years.

The agreement marks a dramatic climb down by the government, which had planned to give the asylum seekers, whom it designated as work migrants and "illegal infiltrators", a choice between expulsion and indefinite imprisonment. The asylum seekers, fleeing war in Sudan and indefinite military service in Eritrea, had crossed into Israel through the Sinai Peninsula in the years before a border fence was completed in 2013.

But as part of deliberations on a petition by rights lawyers challenging the legality of the deportations, Israel's Supreme Court last month froze the process pending the provision by state attorneys of more details of the plan. Mr Netanyahu's office said on Monday that "legal imperatives and diplomatic difficulties" had forced the abandonment of the plan, an apparent reference to Rwanda's denial that it had agreed to accept people forcibly deported.

"The Supreme Court would have told us there is no third country and all of them would have stayed" in Israel without the agreement with UNHCR, Mr Netanyahu said at a press conference.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a news conference in Jerusalem on April 2, 2018 at which his government announced it would not go ahead with the forced deportation of thousands of African asylum seekers. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, centre, director general of the Israel's Population and Immigration Authority, and Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri were also present. Ronen Zvulun / ReutersIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a news conference in Jerusalem on April 2, 2018 at which his government announced it would not go ahead with the forced deportation of thousands of African asylum seekers. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, centre, director general of the Israel's Population and Immigration Authority, and Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri were also present. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

The expulsion plan was opposed by groups including Holocaust survivors, doctors and airline pilots who said they would refuse to fly planes with deportees. Two large demonstrations were held in Tel Aviv on behalf of the refugees. Mainstream American Jewish groups came out against the plan and even leading American Jewish advocate for Israel Alan Dershowitz said it had a "whiff of racism".

Daniel Avram, 26, an Eritrean refugee in Tel Aviv, said: "Today is a holiday. I have to find out the details but this sounds good. I feel relieved."

Sigal Rozen, a staffer at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, termed the agreement "shameful but good for the refugees".

"It is shameful because Israel is sending its refugees to other developed countries instead of absorbing refugees from other areas of disaster."

She attributed the government's reversal to "public pressure, legal pressure, all the pressure in general."

Mr Netanyahu's office said that an effort would be made to settle the remaining asylum seekers in various parts of the country rather than leave them concentrated in south Tel Aviv, where there has been friction with the low-income Israeli inhabitants.

Officials said that money that was to be spent on the expulsions would go towards upgrading conditions in south Tel Aviv.

Dm eri tv subscribe

ERi-TV, Eritrea: Ethiopia Welcomes President Isaias Afwerki, July 14, 2018 - Part 1

Hdri Media Books on Amazon.com
visit hdrimedia.com