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Netanyahu Officially Cancels African Migrants Deal

04 April 2018

The deal, which would have sent roughly half of the African migrants now living in Israel to other Western nations and allowed the rest to remain, was suspended after it angered long-time Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv, where many migrants have congregated over the years. "As a result, and after I again weighed the advantages and disadvantages, I chose to cancel the deal", a statement from the prime minister's office quoted Netanyahu as saying.

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.

The policy was reached as a deal with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR), the agency that handles issues with refugees and migrants.

A group of residents of southern Tel Aviv, where numerous migrants have settled, immediately denounced the new plan in a statement, calling it "a shame for the state of Israel". A city councilman in Tel Aviv, where numerous migrants would be resettled, called the agreement a "disaster that will reverberate for generations and cause irreversible damage to the country".

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Implementing the signed agreement was expected to take five years and Netanyahu's backtrack was largely seen in Israel as an attempt to appease his voter base and keep its support at a time of political uncertainty.

"Despite the growing legal and worldwide difficulties, we will continue to act with determination to exhaust all the possibilities available to us to remove the infiltrators", he added.

In any case, she added, a decision will be taken "when we have all the elements" necessary "and we remain available because this is the solution that would in the end be beneficial for both sides, the State of Israel and the refugees". Rwanda agreed to this and began the deportation operation.

Nationalist allies who dominate Netanyahu's coalition had harshly criticized the deal because it would allow thousands of Africans to remain in Israel.

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From the moment that it became clear in the last few weeks that the third country as an option does not exist, we in effect entered a trap that meant all of them would stay.

The original outline was moral and just, and we must follow it, alone. Otherwise, he warned "the government of Israel won't be able to convince anyone in the future that infiltrating isn't worthwhile".

The agreement was a dramatic, if short-lived reversal by the government which had planned to face asylum seekers, whom it designated as work migrants and "illegal infiltrators" with a choice between expulsion and indefinite imprisonment.

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Netanyahu Officially Cancels African Migrants Deal