Date: Thursday, 03 May 2018
Report says Netanyahu wants a better deal from the UN refugee agency, after pulling out of previous deal due to political pressure ■ PMO: No progress on topic yet
The signed agreement was to end the forced deportation to Africa from Israel of asylum seekers, resettling 16,000 in Israel permanently and an additional 16,000 in Western countries. According to the report, Jerusalem seeks to reduce the number of asylum seekers who are to remain in Israel.
In response to the report, the UN refugee agency said that its initial statement, according to which the deal was "a win-win that would benefit both Israel and the people needing asylum," still stands.
Last week, Israel admitted in court that its plan to relocate African asylum seekers has fallen through and that there is currently no possibility to forcibly deport them.
In a statement, the state said it would stop holding pre-deportation hearings for asylum seekers and that any previous decisions on the matter are now nullified.
A coalition of human rights groups petitioned Israel's High Court of Justice last month to demand that those who face deportation be allowed to see the agreements Israel allegedly signed with Rwanda or Uganda, the countries to which it planned to deport them. Both African nations deny the existence of such deals.
At the time Netanyahu nixed the deal, the UN agency said in a statement that "it is with disappointment that UNHCR notes today's cancellation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Israel-UNHRC Agreement of April 2 on solutions for Eritreans and Sudanese currently in Israel.
"UNHCR continues to believe that a win-win agreement that would benefit Israel and people needing asylum is in everyone's best interests. And we encourage the Government of Israel to reconsider the matter further, while standing reading to be of help," the statement further noted.
The UN agency also said that the deal with the Israeli government "was the result of discussions over an extended period of time, and reflected a shared effort to find a solution that gave international protection to people arriving in Israel fleeing war or persecution while also meeting the concerns of Israeli host communities."
The refugee agency also stated at the time that it is offering to work with Israel to identify and "respond to the protection needs" of asylum seekers in the Jewish state.
"I listened closely to many comments about the agreement," Netanyahu said. "After reevaluating the advantages and disadvantages, I decided to cancel the deal. Despite the growing legal and international limitations," he added, "we will continue to act with determination to exhaust all possibilities at our disposal to remove the infiltrators."
In Israel, the cancellation of the deal sparked a firestorm of angry reactions.