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03 April 2018, 04:13 | Floyd Cook
Israel to send more than 16000 African migrants to Western countries
Rights groups had challenged the deportation in Israel's High Court, which on March 15 issued a temporary order that froze its implementation.
"This is a unique agreement between the United Nations commissioner and the state of Israel, that takes 16,250 people out, takes them out to developed countries like Canada, or Germany and Italy", Netanyahu said on live television.
Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right party Jewish Home, a key member of Netanyahu's coalition government and a competitor for Israel's right-wing votes, said on Twitter that the agreement would encourage more people to enter the country illegally, and called on Netanyahu to overturn it.
But migrant and human rights organizations said many of those people did not find work or receive legal status at their destinations, and many continued on their journeys, often putting themselves in danger. The agreement announced Monday will send 16,000 African asylum seekers to Western countries such as Canada, Italy and Germany.
The original decision that was reached in January was to offer the migrants a cash lump-sum and a plane ticket to leave Israel voluntarily or otherwise face forced expulsion.
According to interior ministry figures, there are now some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, half of them children, women or men with families, who were not facing immediate deportation.
Netanyahu said the plan was canceled after it became clear that the "third country" could not handle the absorptions.
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.
Rwanda and Uganda have said they would not accept those deported against their will.
The plan is divided into three stages, spread over five years, at the end of which "the reality of life in south Tel Aviv and the neighborhoods will significantly improve", the Prime Minister's Office statement read.
A group of residents of southern Tel Aviv, where numerous migrants have settled, immediately denounced the new plan in a statement, calling it "a shame for the state of Israel". Since 2005, prior to which the border had been porous, a total of 64,000 Africans had made it to Israel, although thousands have since left.
The facility was closed last month as part of the previous plan.
Those released were barred from living or working in seven cities with high migrant populations, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
"The timing of this announcement, during Passover, could not have been more appropriate as these asylum seekers, like our ancestors, all crossed the Sinai in search of freedom".
Only a handful of asylum claims have been approved in recent years.
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.
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