Israel Cancels Plan to Deport Thousands of African Migrants
By Robert Berger April 02, 2018
Some 40,000 Africans in Israel have won a reprieve from an Israeli plan to deport them.
Israel has abruptly canceled a controversial plan for the forced expulsion of African migrants who entered the country illegally over the past decade. Most came from war-torn Eritrea and Sudan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the unexpected announcement, saying that under a deal with the U.N. Refugee Agency, some 16,000 Africans will be sent to Western countries including Canada, Italy and Germany. More than 20,000 will be allowed to remain in Israel for at least the next five years.
Netanyahu's right-wing government rejects claims by the Africans that they are refugees, describing them as "infiltrators" and economic migrants.
In February, Israel began issuing deportation orders to 20,000 African males, presenting them with an ultimatum: Leave for Africa within two months or face imprisonment.
That raised the ire of the U.N. refugee agency and Israeli human rights groups, which charged that sending the migrants back to Africa would endanger their lives.
Israeli refugee activist Shula Keshet welcomed the newly announced deal, saying that Israel has a moral obligation to help the Africans because the Jewish state was built by refugees fleeing the Holocaust.
Munhim Aharon, who fled to Israel from Sudan, said the deal removes the veil of uncertainty hanging over the African community in Israel and gives people hope for the future.
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