Israel and United Nations reach deal on refugee deportation

Lucy Bush
April 3, 2018

From 2005 until 2012 about 60,000 surreptitiously crossed into Israel over the once-porus border with Egypt, majority Sudanese or Eritreans who, under worldwide conventions, could not be sent back to their home countries, where they could face persecution.

Under the new plan, migrants who will be absorbed by Western countries will be allowed to work in Israel until they leave, while those who stay will be granted legal status, a visa and eventual residency status.

Appealing to the anti-migrant camp, the Prime Minister's Office highlighted that the new plan allows for the deportations of even more migrants than previously planned, but it will all be done under the auspices of the United Nations and the global community.

Netanyahu said the UNHCR had agreed to organise and fund the new plan that would take five years to implement. Israel had told thousands of African migrants in February that they had to leave the country by April or they would be sent to prison.

"We have been monitoring this situation closely and as was reported last month we have been in direct contact with the Government of Israel and we reached an arrangement with Israeli authorities to suspend the deportation and detention of individuals who have private sponsorship (PSR) applications for Canada until the processing of their case has been completed", Jaswal said in the emailed statement.

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But the migrants also found wide pockets of support, with many Israelis arguing that the country, founded in the wake of the Holocaust, had a special responsibility to help those in need.

Speaking to reporters, Netanyahu said that many of those leaving the country will be moved to Canada, Italy and Germany. In addition to the resettlement, other African migrants in the southern part of Tel-Aviv were to be relocated to other parts of Israel, given legal status and offered job training. Before Monday's announcement, the government had remained steadfast, bristling at what it considered cynical comparisons to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. The Israeli prime minister's reversal came after a backlash from right-wing politicians and some residents of southern Tel Aviv, where many Eritreans and Sudanese have settled.

According to the Prime Minister, with the cancellation of the plan to deport the majority of illegal infiltrators, the government was faced with the choice of allowing almost all of the infiltrators to remain in Israel or working towards an worldwide agreement which would meet with the approval of the United Nations and face no concerns under global law.

Israel uses the term "infiltrators" to describe people who did not enter the country through an official border crossing.

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.

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"As asylum seekers we don't care where we are going to be as long as it is a safe place, and these countries are willing to protect us and we can live with human dignity", he said.

Lots of those seeking refuge made their way to Israel.

Aron Heller is an Associated Press writer.

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