Israel cancels deal with UN to resettle African asylum seekers

Source: Xinhua| 2018-04-03 19:11:20|Editor: Jiaxin
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JERUSALEM, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Israel has canceled a deal with the United Nations to resettle African asylum seekers, just one day after it was announced, said Israeli Prime Minister's Office Tuesday.

On Monday afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at a televised news conference that a deal was agreed with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Under the agreement, a government plan to deport asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan was canceled, instead, half of them will be resettled in Westen countries and the rest would be allowed to stay in Israel.

However, Netanyahu announced Monday night on his Facebook that he had put the implementation of the deal on hold.

The move was made after he was criticized by top cabinet ministers for failing to consult with them ahead of agreeing to the deal and by ultra-nationalist activists who demanded for deporting all of the migrants.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement saying the deal was canceled.

According to the statement, Netanyahu met with anti-migrant activists from southern Tel Aviv, where most of the asylum seekers live, and told them that he had withdrawn his support for the deal.

"Every year I make thousands of decisions benefiting the State of Israel. Occasionally a decision is reached that has to be reconsidered," Netanyahu said.

He said he made the decision after consulting with activist leaders and with Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

Over the past months, the Israeli government has tried to push forward a plan to deport the asylum seekers to Rwanda or give an indefinite prison time to those who refuse to leave. But on March 15, following petitions by human rights activists, the Supreme Court put a temporary freeze on the deportation plan.

Netanyahu said he was forced to agree to the UN plan after the New Israel Fund, an Israeli human rights organization, and the European Union pressure Rwanda to backtrack on a deal with Israel to accept the deported asylum seekers.

On Tuesday, Channel 10 TV news reported that Rwanda never agreed to such a deal.

Official figures released by the Interior Ministry show Israel has some 42,000 African migrants, many of whom live in the impoverished neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv.

Israeli authorities see them as a threat to Israel's Jewish identity and employed a slew of measures against them.