Israel reaches landmark deal with UN on African migrants

Israel reaches an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees whereby the international body will facilitate transfer of some 16,000 African migrants to Western countries in return for a government promise to “formalize the status'” of those who remain.

“Israel has reached an unprecedented joint understanding with the United Nations commissioner for refugees to remove migrants from Israel,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Under the agreement, Filippo Grandi, the UN commissioner for refugees, “will work, via understanding with different Western countries, to remove no fewer than 16,250 migrants from Israel, and Israel will formalize the status of protected populations that would have remained in any case.”

There are approximately 38,000 African asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Interior Ministry. About 72 percent are Eritrean and 20% are Sudanese. The vast majority arrived between 2006 and 2012, illegally crossing the border from Egypt. The Africans say they fled for their lives and face renewed danger if they return.

Israel considers the vast majority of asylum seekers to be job seekers — economic migrants whose lives were not in danger in their countries of origin — and says it has no legal obligation to keep them.



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