Netanyahu suspends refugee deal just hours after announcing it

TEL AVIV, Eliyahu Kamisher and Stefanie Jaerkel (dpa)- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Monday he was suspending a deal with the United Nations to resettle around 16,000 African asylum seekers to Western countries, just hours after he announced it.
In a statement on Facebook, Netanyahu said he would discuss the deal, which would also have seen another 16,000 asylum seekers given "official status" in Israel, with residents of southern Tel Aviv before reviewing it again.

Many of the asylum seekers concerned live in the area and members of the religious right-wing of Netanyahu's coalition government had strongly objected to the deal, according to the newspaper Haaretz.
The deal he had announced on Monday afternoon would have halted the country's plan to deport tens of thousands of African asylum seekers and ended over a decade of uncertainty for them, as the government has increasingly pressured the migrants to leave the country through detention and wage deductions.
In the early and mid-2000s, asylum seekers mostly from Sudan and Eritrea crossed through Egypt's Sinai Peninsula into Israel.
The large influx of migrants to the predominately Jewish country sparked a backlash among many Israelis who said they were not genuine refugees but rather "infiltrators."
There are around 37,000 asylum seekers in Israel and a few thousand children of asylum seekers, according to government figures and estimates.
It was not clear what was to have happened to the asylum seekers not included in the approximately 32,000 asylum seekers to be settled in Israel or abroad as part of the UN plan.
Netanyahu had said that Germany, Canada and Italy were among possible countries that the asylum seekers would be sent to.
A coalition of Israeli human rights groups had applauded the UN agreement, and said it would "closely follow the signed agreement to ensure that all asylum seekers will receive status, rights and security in both Israel and in other countries."

Tuesday, April 3rd 2018
Eliyahu Kamisher and Stefanie Jaerkel (dpa)

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