Published: Tue, April 03, 2018

Israel and United Nations reach deal on refugee deportation

Israel and United Nations reach deal on refugee deportation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Dery are expected to deliver remarks regarding the agreement later this afternoon.

Thousands of African migrants in Israel will be resettled in countries including Canada, Germany and Italy under an agreement reached with the United Nations refugee agency, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday.

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.

For each migrant resettled overseas, Israel would give "temporary residence" to a migrant in Israel, Netanyahu told a news conference earlier on Monday.

Mr Bottinick said that several legal developments in the third-country destinations had interfered with Israel's plan to send the migrants there, in turn leading to renewed talks between the United Nations refugee agency and Israel, with deliberations gathering speed over the past few weeks.

Numerous migrants say they came to Israel to seek asylum after fleeing persecution, conflict, and in the case of Eritreans, forced, lifelong conscription to its army, but Israeli authorities regard them as economic migrants.

The deal lifts the threat of a forced expulsion to unnamed African destinations, widely believed to be Rwanda and Uganda, with whom Israel had reached a secret agreement.

The deal reached between the Prime Minister's Office and the UN High Commission on Refugees stipulates that Israel can deport at least 16,250 migrants while granting temporary residency to an additional 16,000.

The UN refugee agency said it would work with the Israeli government to develop programmes to encourage some Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to move out of Tel Aviv neighbourhoods where they have congregated.

The decision triggered large protests in Israel and outrage among the Jewish community overseas - including former ambassadors and Holocaust survivors. Since 2005, prior to which the border had been porous, a total of 64,000 Africans had made it to Israel, although thousands have since left.

Under the new five-year plan, Israel will "regulate" the status of those not being resettled - signalling they will be allowed to stay at least temporarily.

Those opposed to the original plan included Holocaust survivors who say the country has a special duty to protect migrants.

Protests also appear to have played a part.

The government had previously said that women, children, and families, for example, would be exempt from the deportation order, as well as those who escaped the genocide in Sudan's western region of Darfur. Those who will leave Israel are likely to mostly be single men from Eritrea - where the regime is one of the world's most oppressive and men are forced into a military service with slavery-like conditions. "Israel is like a school for us".

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