United Nations deal on African migrants suspended

United Nations deal on African migrants suspended

United Nations deal on African migrants suspended

Numerous migrants have flocked in recent years to neighbourhoods in southern Tel Aviv, rapidly changing the historically working-class areas into what has become known as "Little Africa" and sparking tension with the local Jewish population.

The migrants have become a political issue, with religious and conservative politicians portraying the presence of Muslim and Christian Africans as a threat to Israel's Jewish character. But in 2013, Israel completed a fence running the length of the Sinai border, halting the flow of illegal migrants there nearly immediately.

The "third safe countries" were not named, but they were known to be Rwanda and Uganda.

The initial plan had drawn criticism from the United Nations refugee agency, rights groups and some Israelis, including Holocaust survivors who said the country had a special duty to protect migrants.

"We thought that if we came here, there is a democracy and Israel will defend our rights, but they are playing with our minds and our lives", Sernai Dori, a 28-year-old mother of three from Eritrea who has been in Israel for a decade, said at the protest in Jerusalem.

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Hardliners in Netanyahu's coalition strongly criticized the deal for allowing thousands of Africans to remain after the prime minister announced it.

"In the last few weeks, following tremendous pressure on Rwanda by the New Israel Fund and elements in the European Union, Rwanda has withdrawn from the agreement and refused to absorb infiltrators from Israel who are forcibly removed". After those options failed, it announced plans to begin deporting them to an unnamed African country - believed to be Rwanda or Uganda - on April 1.

While some 20,000 have left the country since, including as part of a government program offering $3,500 to those voluntarily self-deporting, close to 40,000 remain, not including thousands of children born in Israel.

That plan was successfully challenged by human rights groups at Israel's High Court on March 15, where a temporary order blocked its implementation.

African migrants wait in line for the opening of the Population and Immigration Authority office in Bnei Brak, Israel February 4, 2018.

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Benjamin Netanyahu said he had taken the decision after consulting residents of south Tel Aviv, where numerous migrants live.

But Israel on Tuesday scrapped the deal with the UNHCR.

But for critics, suspension alone wasn't enough.

Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, earlier yesterday tweeted that the deal "is bad for Israel". "Its approval would cause generations of crying and determine a precedent in Israel granting residency for illegal infiltrators". He called for the plan to be brought to the Cabinet for a vote. "At the same time, we will continue to seek additional solutions".

Hours after announcing the agreement himself in a televised address on Monday afternoon, Netanyahu changed course, suspending it, and on Tuesday he canceled it after facing pressure from his right-wing base.

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Meanwhile, activists have said that a handful of Sudanese and Eritrean migrants had been recognized as refugees by Israel since they took over the processing of applications from the United Nations in 2009. Israeli military forces said 17,000 Palestinians were "rioting" in six areas in the Gaza strip, rolling burning tires at the security fence and its troops, such actions according to them are being responded to "with riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators".

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