Israel abandons plan to forcibly deport African migrants

By Middle East Affairs

The Israeli government said on Tuesday it would cancel its plan to forcibly deport African migrants who entered the country illegally, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his administration tried for months to cement a plan that would deport thousands of refugees, mostly from Eritrean and Sudan. The migrants arrived to Israel through Egypt. The migrants claim to be seeking refuge from war and persecution, while Israel says they are stealing jobs from Israeli citizens.

“At this stage, the possibility of carrying out an unwilling deportation to a third country is not on the agenda,” the government wrote Tuesday.

Around 4,000 migrants have left Israel for Rwanda and Uganda since 2013 under a voluntary program, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under pressure from his right-wing voter base to expel thousands more.

Israel houses about 30,000 African asylum seekers. Initially the intention was to deport them to Rwanda and Uganda, but a last-minute deal at the beginning of April with the United Nations paved the way for Western nations such as Germany and Italy to absorb about half of the migrants, while the other half would become established residents of Israel.

Shortly after the announcement, Netanyahu’s right-wing supporters expressed deep criticism of the deal. Facing pressure, Netanyahu canceled the agreement within 24 hours. Israel then tried finalizing an agreement to force the migrants to Uganda, which rights groups petitioned against.

Now, the migrants will be able to renew their residency permits every 60 days, Reuters said, as they did before.

 

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