DW.com — April 2, 2018 (Machine translation)
The Israeli government wanted to deport thousands of refugees to African third countries. After protest, however, head of government Netanyahu changed the plans. 16,000 Africans are now to leave for Western countries.
An agreement has been signed with the UN refugee agency UNHCR, according to which around 16,000 people who have illegally entered Africa from Africa should be relocated to western countries ready to accept asylum seekers. This was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He expressly named Germany, Italy and Canada. Most of the remaining illegal African immigrants should at least have a legal residence status in Israel for a limited period.
Program created for five years
The resettlement will happen within five years, the statement said. During this time “there is no need to continue the policy of enforced expulsion in third countries”. The UNHCR initially did not comment on the agreement announced by Israel.
First, Israel had planned to expel up to 40,000 illegal immigrants from Africa, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, and deport them to third countries in Africa. Target countries in Africa should, therefore, be Uganda and Rwanda.
Netanyahu bows to the pressure
When the Israeli plans first became known last November, they triggered outrage around the world. The UN refugee agency also clearly expressed its concerns. Israel had legal obligations regarding the protection of refugees, it was said at that time. There was also protest in Israel. Several times thousands of Israelis had demonstrated against the deportation of refugees. Holocaust survivors appealed to the government to show humanity in the face of its own people’s history.
The Netanyahu government has now said that in view of the new agreement with the UNHCR, because of “legal constraints and political difficulties on the part of third countries”, it was necessary to find a different way.
Since 2007, more and more immigrants have crossed the land border between Israel and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. The Israeli government has since completed the fortification of the border. According to the Interior Ministry, there are currently around 42,000 African immigrants living in Israel.