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African migrants protest action their deportation in Tel Aviv, February 2018. From 1 April, the estimated 38,000 asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan still in the country have been given the extreme ultimatum of leaving the country or facing indefinite imprisonment / Photo courtesy Hotline for Refugees and Migrants – Israel

Israel cancels plan to relocate African migrants to Europe

Israel announced Monday it had reached a deal with the UN refugee agency to cancel a controversial plan to deport African migrants and replace it with a new one that will see thousands sent to Western countries. Barely 24 hours later, Prime Minister Netanyahu has surprisingly announced the cancellation of the plan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he was cancelling an agreement with the UN refugee agency on resettling thousands of African migrants after facing mounting pressure from his right-wing base.

Netanyahu had himself announced the agreement in a televised address on Monday afternoon, drawing immediate anger from right-wing politicians, including allies, and many of his traditional supporters.

He said in a late-night Facebook post on Monday he was suspending the agreement that would have allowed thousands of the migrants to remain in Israel at least temporarily.

READ MORE Israel, UN reach deal on sending African migrants to Europe

On Tuesday, he said the deal was being cancelled after having held discussions on it.

“After having heard numerous comments on the agreement, I have examined the pros and cons and have decided to cancel the agreement,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The agreement was designed to end the possibility of forced deportations of thousands of migrants to Rwanda under a controversial plan put forward by Netanyahu in January.

Under the agreement with the UN, a minimum of 16,250 migrants would have instead been resettled in Western nations.

In return, Israel would grant temporary residency to one migrant for each one resettled elsewhere.

The presence of the primarily Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in Israel has become a key political issue.

Netanyahu is already under heavy political pressure due to a string of graft probes.

© AFP

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