By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK (IDN) – Thousands of African asylum seekers who reached Israel after dangerous 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.
A landmark agreement negotiated with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had been announced only hours before it was pulled off the table. According to The Jerusalem Post, the plan was rejected by the Israeli cabinet, members of the governing coalition, the culture minister and the education minister who said “granting legal status to 16,000 infiltrators will turn Israel into a paradise for infiltrators”.
Approximately 40,000 Africans, nearly all from dictatorial Eritrea and war-torn Sudan, say they fled for their lives and faced renewed danger if they returned.
Some 16,000 migrants had been led to believe that the office of Benjamin Netanyahu had ended its vehement opposition to providing safe haven in Israel and in western countries.
The latest policy about-face stunned some supporters of the Prime Minister. “Overnight, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went from advocating the forced deportation of what he has always called ‘infiltrators’ from Africa to a third country on that continent, to announcing a plan whereby Israel would absorb some 16,250 of what he now calls African ‘migrants,’ and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would place an equal number in Western countries,” wrote The Jersusalem Post.
The optics of deporting thousands of Africans possibly facing death in their home countries spurred a letter from the Black Congressional Caucus in February 2018, calling on Israel not to deport the migrants. Another letter was penned in mid-March by constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz, former Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman, and the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier, saying the move could cause “incalculable damage to the moral standing of Israel and of Jews around the world.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer also warned Netanyahu about the damage this policy would have in the U.S., especially among African-Americans, among whom Israel already faces significant challenges.
Israel considers the vast majority of the nearly 40,000 migrants to be jobseekers and said it has no legal obligation to accommodate them. Critics called the deportation plan unethical and a stain on Israel’s image as a refuge for Jewish migrants. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 April 2018]
Photo: African Asylum seekers protesting against Israel’s decision. Credit: chikaoduahblog
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