Benjamin Netanyahu Suspends Deal That Could've Brought Asylum Seekers To Canada

Saul Bowman
April 4, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has announced that previously announced plans to send thousands of migrants to three Western countries, has been put on hold, CNN reports.

After meeting with residents on Tuesday, Netanyahu said he had weighed the pros and cons, and he "decided to cancel the agreement".

Israel scrapped its plan to deport tens of thousands of migrants back to Africa, after mass demonstrations against the policy in the streets of Tel Aviv and criticism from overseas.

The agreement had also included support services for the African migrants who would be staying legally in Israel, Spindler said, including vocational training to help them find employment beyond southern Tel Aviv.

Israeli hardliners have criticized the deal for allowing so many Africans to remain.

A lot of them entered from Egypt several years ago, before a new fence was built along the desert border. The groups said Israel is capable of absorbing all of the migrants, describing them as "asylum-seekers who came knocking on its door".

But Israel on Tuesday scrapped the deal with the UNHCR. "Its approval would cause generations of crying and determine a precedent in Israel granting residency for illegal infiltrators", he said.

The U.N.'s refugee agency had urged Israel to reconsider its original plan, saying migrants who have relocated to sub-Saharan Africa in the past few years were unsafe and ended up on the perilous migrant trail to Europe, some suffering abuse, torture and even dying on the way.

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.

Following an outcry from his coalition and the public, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended his plan to let about 20,000 migrants remain in Israel instead of sending them back to Africa. Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, tweeted critically of the United Nations agreement on early Tuesday, saying that Netanyahu should "cancel it altogether".

The Supreme Court froze the deportations in mid-March in response to a petition.

The UNHCR in a statement confirmed an agreement was signed with Israel but did not name the countries that would accept the migrants. He called for the plan to be brought to the Cabinet for a vote.

More than 60% of asylum seekers from Sudan were granted similar status. The prime minister's turnaround threw into limbo the surprise agreement, which had finally offered a solution to an issue that has divided Israel for a decade.

"The agreement already signed was hugely beneficial for both the refugees and the residents of South Tel Aviv", the group said of the now-cancelled United Nations deal.

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