Thousands of African asylum seekers who reached Israel after unsafe voyages may have lost their last best hope to be released and sent to western countries or resettled in Israel after members of the Israeli coalition government trashed a negotiated asylum plan.
Under the agreement with the UN, a minimum of 16,250 migrants would have instead been resettled in Western nations.
More than 39,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, now live in Israel. The deal left 7,000 unaccounted for.
Israel's statement announcing the new plan on Monday said there was no longer a need to send migrants to unnamed third countries.
Human rights organizations were pleased with the deal, since migrants would be resettled in Western countries.
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". It also called for dispersing the migrant population throughout the country, and investing and rehabilitating Tel Aviv's impoverished southern neighborhoods.
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But the deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotoveli, said Israel would still find a way "to reach the desirable decision, the removal of the infiltrators from Israel". Germany issued a similar statement.
Dozens of migrants and their Israeli supporters protested the suspension outside the prime minister's office in Jerusalem and government offices in Tel Aviv as Netanyahu was set to meet with neighborhood representatives on Tuesday.
The facility was closed last month as part of the previous plan. Each migrant would be given a choice to be jailed, or to receive a check for $3,500 and a plane ticket to another country.
"We continue to believe in the need for an accord advantageous for all that can benefit Israel, the worldwide community and the people who need asylum, and we hope that Israel reconsiders its decision", said a UNHCR spokesperson.
The "third safe countries" were not named, but they were known to be Rwanda and Uganda.
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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".
"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. The New Israel Fund also called Netanyahu's accusations "pathetic".
The original outline was moral and just, and we must follow it, alone. By signing this agreement, we are sending a unsafe message to the whole world: Whoever succeeds in infiltrating Israel illegally will get a prize of legal residence here or a Western country.
A fewer hours later, the IDF released a low-quality, black-and-white video claimed to be from the same incident, which shows footage of several Palestinians trying to damage the border fence.
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