Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he was cancelling an agreement with the U.N. refugee agency to relocate thousands of African migrants, bowing to right-wing pressure to scrap the deal.
The agency, the UNHCR, said it hoped Israel would reconsider the decision soon and offered to work with it to identify and “respond to the protection needs” of asylum seekers in the country.
|Israel's Netanyahu scraps African migrant relocation deal with U.N.
Netanyahu’s critics seized on his backtracking on the arrangement - under which thousands of other migrants would have won the right to remain in Israel - as a sign of political weakness. The prime minister is the subject of police investigations into suspected corruption, which he denies, in the greatest challenges to his career yet.
For the estimated 37,000 African migrants in Israel, most of them from Eritrea and Sudan, a whirlwind of announcements about their future has swept their status even deeper into limbo.
Outside a government complex in Tel Aviv where Netanyahu said he was scrapping the deal, several African men wrapped themselves in chains in a protest that put their sense of powerlessness on display.
On Monday Netanyahu announced live on television an arrangement with the UNHCR that would have relocated about 16,250 migrants to Western countries.
But the fact that thousands more would be allowed to stay raised an outcry from right-wing politicians and on social media from Netanyahu’s nationalist voter base, which wants the migrants expelled. He then posted on Facebook he was putting the agreement’s implementation on hold.Reuters