Just hours after reaching a deal that would see thousands of African migrants remain in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has temporarily suspended the agreement with the UN Refugee Agency, pending talks with those affected.
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On Monday, Israel and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) struck a deal that would allow some 16,250 illegal African migrants to gain legal status and stay in Israel. The same number of Africans, who entered the country illegally, would be relocated to Western nations under the agreement, which would be carried out in three stages over five years.
While the UNHCR praised the arrangement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he will temporarily freeze the deal until he has a chance to speak with those affected by the UN-Israeli plan.
“In the meantime, I am suspending the implementation of the agreement, and after I meet with the representatives, I will bring the agreement up for renewed examination,” Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post after facing political backlash over the deal.
Before the plan can get the green light, Netanyahu wants to have consultations with the residents of south Tel Aviv, where most of the African migrants reside. The PM also wants to meet with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Tuesday morning to discuss the developments.
Netanyahu’s Monday night Facebook post was the third statement the prime minister made on the migrant issue that day. At an afternoon press conference, Netanyahu praised the UN plan, noting that while an equal number of African migrants will stay in Israel, some 16,250 illegals would be resettled in “developed” Western countries. In a follow-up Facebook video address, Netanyahu noted that those migrants allowed to stay will be relocated from Tel Aviv to kibbutzim, agricultural villages, and other communities.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the suspension of the agreement. “This is a correct decision by the prime minister, and I congratulate him on this, as we have said, this is a bad agreement that constitutes a capitulation to the false campaign that was disseminated in the media and would turn Israel into a paradise for infiltrators,” Bennets said, according to Israel National News.
“The delay is not enough, we have to move to a new plan that will move the illegal infiltrators out of Israel,” Bennett added, reiterating earlier criticism that the UN deal faced from Israeli nationalist lawmakers.
At present, there are more than 39,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, that live in Israel. While the fate of some 32,500 African illegals has been decided under the UN deal, the legal status of the remaining 6,500 people remains unclear.
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