Netanyahu Officially Cancels African Migrants Deal

Netanyahu Officially Cancels African Migrants Deal

Netanyahu Officially Cancels African Migrants Deal

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay slammed the sudden turnaround on Army Radio questioning if defense decisions are also made in the same manner.

By late Monday evening, Netanyahu wrote on Facebook that he was suspending implementation of the agreement for the time being.

Israel had originally planned to deport thousands of asylum seekers from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea back to Africa starting in April.

The fate of some 37,000 Africans in Israel has posed a moral dilemma for a state founded as a haven for Jews from persecution and a national home.

The deal, which would have sent roughly half of the African migrants now living in Israel to other Western nations and allowed the rest to remain, was suspended after it angered long-time Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv, where many migrants have congregated over the years.

"It is with disappointment that UNHCR notes today's cancellation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Israel-UNHCR Agreement of 2nd April on solutions for Eritreans and Sudanese now in Israel", the UN's refugee agency said in a statement. He said he was freezing the deal until he could meet with Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv, areas with large migrant populations who feel slighted by the deal.

"The agreement stipulates that for each migrant who leaves the country, we commit to give temporary residence status to another", Netanyahu said in a televised address after Israel announced the deal.

Netanyahu said he had listened "attentively many comments on the agreement, and (.) after reassessing its advantages and disadvantages I made a decision to cancel it".

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Mr Netanyahu's suspension of the agreement was not enough for Mr Bennett, who tweeted early on Tuesday that it needed to be "completely cancelled". The prime minister is the subject of police investigations into suspected corruption, which he denies, in the greatest challenges to his career yet.

The cancellation on Tuesday afternoon came a day after the agreement was first announced and hours after the prime minister said he would freeze the agreement in order to consult with members of his government coalition and with the residents of southern Tel Aviv, where numerous migrants live. Netanyahu faced heavy criticism from nationalist allies, even within his own ruling Likud party.

The country said the migrants would be given up to $3,500 for leaving within the next 90 days.

Rwanda and Uganda have said they would not accept those deported against their will.

A previous plan already underway for a mass deportation of some 20,000 migrants to Rwanda had led to legal challenges in Israel, drew criticism overseas and triggered an emotional public debate among Israelis.

Netanyahu announced the deal on Monday after a plan to deport the migrants to an unnamed African country, presumed to be Rwanda, fell through. Even though the government didn't specify where the refugees would go, immigrant rights groups said the countries in question were Rwanda and Uganda. Critics in Israel opposed the deal because it would allow many other migrants to remain.

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

The UNHCR urged Netanyahu to "reconsider" his decision to scrub the deal.

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