Israel suspends controversial plan to send African migrants West

Israel reaches landmark deal with UN to resettle African migrants

Israel cancels controversial plan to deport African migrants

Israel announced Monday it had reached a deal with the United Nations 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.

Under the agreement, more than 16,000 would resettle in other countries, largely in Europe.

Under the plan, Netanyahu said, Israel would offer temporary residency status to the same number of asylum seekers as were resettled in Western nations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named Canada, Italy and Germany as some of the nations that will take in the migrants. From 2005 until 2012 about 60,000 surreptitiously crossed into Israel over the once-porus border with Egypt, majority Sudanese or Eritreans who, under global conventions, could not be sent back to their home countries, where they could face persecution.

"So from the moment it became clear, in recent weeks, that the option of the third country no longer existed, we were in a catch, meaning they would all have remained here".

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The new deal is to be phased in over the next five years in three stages, though the PMO did not specify the details.

Netanyahu in January announced the implementation of a programme to remove migrants who entered illegally, giving them a choice between leaving voluntarily or facing indefinite imprisonment with eventual forced expulsion. This has ended most illegal crossings.

Some critics in the country and among the Jewish community overseas - including former ambassadors and Holocaust survivors - said the plan was unethical and a stain on Israel's global image.

Spindler said that Eritrean and Sudanese people in Israel should be labeled as refugees, not migrants, as they left their homes to escape persecution and war.

Under Monday's deal, roughly half the 35,000 migrants living in Israel would be resettled in the West.

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The agreement comes after Israel looked to expel the asylum-seekers back to Africa.

Opposition leaders and activists in Israel hailed the new deal on Monday.

But Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party that is part of Mr Netanyahu's governing coalition, condemned the plan.

The largest community of African migrants, about 15,000, lives in south Tel Aviv, in a poor neighborhood where shops are dotted with signs in Tigrinya and other African languages and abandoned warehouses have been converted into churches for the largely Christian Eritreans.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum.

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Israel had announced a deal with the UNHCR to cancel a controversial plan to deport African migrants and replace it with one that would see thousands sent to Western countries.

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