Israel's Netanyahu cancels African migrant deal made with UN

"Despite legal restraints and global difficulties that are piling up, we will continue to act with determination to explore all of the options at our disposal to remove the infiltrators", Netanyahu said in his statement on Tuesday.

The fate of more than 30,000 migrants, who entered the country illegally, has always been a hugely contentious issue.

Prior to the deal with the UN, Israel had handed notices to almost 39,000 asylum seekers, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese, notifying them that they would be deported to Uganda and Rwanda.

The arrangement had drawn opposition from within his governing coalition.

It replaced an earlier controversial plan for mass deportations to third-party countries in Africa if individuals did not go voluntarily.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he is cancelling an agreement with the United Nations refugee agency on resettling thousands of African migrants after facing mounting pressure from his right-wing base.

In return, Israel would grant temporary residency to an equal number of migrants.

Netanyahu's announcement Monday, which hailed the agreement as a victory for Israel and the rule of law, prompted a major backlash from coalition partners and activists calling for the removal of infiltrators from south Tel Aviv, where a majority of the almost 40,000 infiltrators reside.

Several ministers also said they opposed the accord with the UNHCR, on which they had not been informed before the announcement by Netanyahu's office.

Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, welcomed the move, calling the deal "very dangerous" for Israel.

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Most of the African migrants in Israel, estimated at almost 42,000, are from Eritrea and Sudan.

Where are the migrants from?

Israel's government is in turmoil after a major policy for dealing with African migrants collapsed within a few hours.

In January, the Prime Minister had ordered thousands of African refugees to leave the country by April or face imprisonment.

A lot of them arrived in Israel - via Egypt - during the period from 2006 to 2013 before a security fence was erected along the border between Israel and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Many Palestinians were displaced during 1948 and ended up fleeing to Gaza.

Critics at home and in the Jewish American community had called the government's deportation plans unethical and a stain on Israel's image as a refuge for Jewish migrants.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he was putting on hold an agreement with the United Nations refugee agency to.

"We thought that if we came here, there is a democracy and Israel will defend our rights, but they are playing with our minds and our lives", Sernai Dori, a 28-year-old mother of three from Eritrea who has been in Israel for a decade, said at the protest in Jerusalem.

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.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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