Israel to send 16k migrants to West, not Africa

Netanyahu praises Israeli troops after deadly clashes in Gaza

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"UNHCR appreciates the collaboration with the Government of Israel to find a way out for thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese", UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk said on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he is canceling a new agreement with the United Nations refugee agency to relocate thousands of African migrants, after announcing he had suspended the deal.

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.

Israel had announced a deal with the UNHCR to cancel a controversial plan to deport African migrants and replace it with one that would see thousands sent to Western countries.

According to a report by the Population and Immigration Authority, some 34,187 Sudanese and Eritrean nationals are illegally in Israel, some of whom are seeking political asylum. The deal left 7,000 unaccounted for. Among the countries that may accept the Africans are Italy, Germany and Canada, he said.

The deal also resettles 16,000 of them in the country, and a similar number in European nations.

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The plan allowed for thousands of other African migrants to stay in Israel. The called the plan unethical and said it was a stain on Israel's image. Germany issued a similar statement. Major global Jewish organizations and members of the U.S. Congress called on Netanyahu to cancel the deportations.

"In the meantime, I am suspending the implementation of the agreement, and after I meet with the representatives, I will bring the agreement to a new examination". He said the group would work with Israel and resettlement countries to aid the migrants. "As a result, and after re-evaluating the balance of advantages and drawbacks, I made a decision to cancel the agreement".

Activists say many would face persecution if they are returned back home. The deadline to leave or be jailed was to be April 1. However, the plan received a huge backlash from human rights organizations, both internationally and within Israel. Potential host countries were listed as Uganda and Rwanda.

He said, however, that "despite juridical limitations and growing global difficulties we will continue to act with determination to use all the means at our disposal to get the infiltrated people out of the country". Rwanda agreed to this and began the deportation operation. "Its approval would cause generations of crying and determine a precedent in Israel granting residency for illegal infiltrators", he said.

"From the moment in the past few weeks that it became clear that the third country as an option doesn't exist, we basically entered a trap where all of them would remain", he said. Refugees from risky places will be absorbed in Israel, work migrants will be sent back.

That makes Israel's rate of granting asylum among the lowest in the Western world.

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