Israel Scraps Deportation Plan, Will Reopen Detention Centers for Illegal African Migrants

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the annual health conference in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday announced that detention centers for illegal African migrants and asylum seekers would be established following the failure of the government’s deportation plan to third countries. 

“Following the refusal of third countries to accept the infiltrators under the conditions demanded by Israel, I agreed with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to immediately prepare for the reopening of the detention facilities for infiltrators, to advance the [Knesset] override bill to enable us to proceed and promote additional ways to solve this problem,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The Knesset override clause allows the Interior Ministry to overrule decisions made by the High Court.

A document released Tuesday addressing the High Court said that the government’s plan to deport illegal African migrants against their will to third party countries was “no longer on the agenda.”

The statement also said that migrants with expired temporary residency permits would be able to get their visas renewed.

Uganda recently backtracked on a deal with Israel to absorb several thousand migrants following days of negotiations in Kampala. Earlier in the month, Rwanda also nixed a similar deal.

The immigration authority is still planning to deport the illegal migrants voluntarily.

MKs from the opposition welcomed the collapse of the deportation plan. Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli said: “The incitement and threats did nothing to help and justice has won. The nation-state of the Jewish people simply cannot send refugees to an unknown fate.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich said not going through with deportation was saving “Israel from committing a serious and harmful act.”

Earlier this month, only hours after announcing that an agreement had been reached with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that would have seen roughly half of Israel’s 38,000 illegal African migrants resettled in Western countries and the other half given temporary residency status in the Jewish state, Netanyahu announced he was canceling the deal.

The latest news sparked outrage among residents of south Tel Aviv, many of whom have complained of daily stabbings, robberies and violence which they blame on the illegal migrant community. Neve Sha’anan, where there is a large concentration of illegal migrants, has earned the nickname “Little Africa.”

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