Israel said on Monday it has scrapped a plan to deport African migrants to Africa and reached an agreement with the United Nations refugee agency to send more than 16,000 to Western countries instead.
Under the five-year agreement with the UN refugee agency, more than 16,000 African migrants who entered the country illegally, many of them seeking asylum, would be resettled in Western nations such as Germany, Italy and Canada.
Israel will deport 16,000 refugees to West, while grant 16,000 temporary residency status.
As the migrants could face danger or imprisonment if returned to their homelands, Israel offered to relocate them to an unnamed African country, which deportees and aid workers said was Rwanda or Uganda. The agreement was reached after months of diplomatic talks between the sides.
Israel says it has reached a deal with the United Nations refugee agency to cancel the plan to deport thousands of African refugees.
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Critics at home and in the Jewish American community have called the government's proposed response unethical and a stain on Israel's image as a refuge for Jewish migrants.
Representatives of those countries did not respond to requests for comment Monday, but the German Embassy in Israel told the Haaretz newspaper that it was not aware of any proposal and Italian media reported that Rome was not a party to any agreement on the asylum-seekers. Before Monday's announcement, the government had remained steadfast, bristling at what it considered cynical comparisons to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Advocacy groups working on behalf of the migrants had challenged the deportation plans in Israel's high court, securing a temporary freeze on the plan on March 15.
Those opposed to the original plan included Holocaust survivors who say the country has a special duty to protect migrants.
In the post ― in which the prime minister refers to the African migrants as "infiltrators", a term Israeli public officials have commonly used for undocumented immigrants ― Netanyahu said he would meet with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and representatives of the Israeli residents of southern Tel Aviv before reconsidering the deal.
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The committee that came up with the plan stated that it will come up with a "rehabilitation plan" for southern Tel Aviv.
Another 300 had been freed after agreeing to leave Israel, according to Israel's immigration authority.
Protests also appear to have played a part.
The government had previously said that women, children, and families, for example, would be exempt from the deportation order, as well as those who escaped the genocide in Sudan's western region of Darfur. Those who will leave Israel are likely to mostly be single men from Eritrea - where the regime is one of the world's most oppressive and men are forced into a military service with slavery-like conditions.
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