PM Netanyahu rejects UN deal on African migrants

Israel is currently home to some 40,000 asylum seekers, according to UNHCR figures
JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has nixed a deal with UN refugee agency UNHCR regarding the deportation of African migrants and asylum-seekers.
In a statement on Tuesday, Netanyahu said he held meetings with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and representatives of residents of southern Tel Aviv to discuss the agreement.
“After evaluating the advantages and the disadvantages, I decided to cancel the agreement,” he said.
On Monday, Netanyahu’s office said Israel and UNHCR had signed a deal under which Israel scrapped plans to deport thousands of African migrants and asylum-seekers.
Under the deal, Israel would have sent 16,250 African migrants to western countries, while thousands more would have been granted temporary (five-year) residency in Israel.
Israel is currently home to some 40,000 asylum seekers, including 27,500 from Eritrea and 7,800 from Sudan, according to UNHCR figures.
Most of them arrived in Israel — via Egypt — during the period from 2006 to 2013 before a security fence was erected along the border between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (HRM), an Israeli NGO based in Tel Aviv, most of these migrants and asylum-seekers are concentrated in south Tel Aviv and in other cities.
Last summer, Netanyahu vowed to deport “infiltrators” from Africa — a pledge that has since become a rallying cry amid his far-right supporters in the run-up to polls slated for next year.
Netanyahu’s government, however, has come under immense international pressure to halt its “discriminatory” treatment of African asylum-seekers following revelations that deportees would be sent to Rwanda and Uganda.
Since 2012, Israel has deported roughly 20,000 African migrants and asylum-seekers who had entered the country illegally.–AA

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