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On 2nd April 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which he suspended a few hours later.

The deal with the United Nations (UN) Refugee Agency envisaged the resettlement of 16,250 refugees from Israel into Western countries such as Germany, Italy and Canada in the following five years, while the remaining refugees would remain other five years in Israel, receiving a legalized status. The announcement was made following protests taking place for several weeks in Israel, against the deportation of a large part of the refugees to Uganda and Rwanda which was planned for April 2018. Thereupon, Germany and Italy declared to be informed about any agreement neither with Israel, nor with the UNHCR. Although the UN Refugee Agency confirmed the existence of the deal with Israel, protests emerged from ministers within Netanyahu’s coalition, claiming that the remaining refugees would still be too many to manage in the country. A few hours later, Netanyahu declared on Facebook that the deal has been suspended and should be discussed first with delegates from Southern Tel Aviv, where the concentration of African asylum seekers is extremely high.

Today, about 39,000 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea live in Israel and the refugee crisis is a very present and politicized topic, as it is the case in all Western countries. In 2012, a border fence was built at the land border of Egypt, which dramatically reduced the number of arriving refugees from Africa. Since 2006, 60,000 asylum seekers have approximately arrived in Israel and two thirds of them have remained in the country until today.

Netanyahu is now in a difficult situation, since his position is already weakened by earlier corruption allegations which still have to be subject to in-depth investigations. How the refugee matter will be resolved is uncertain. It is unlikely that Israel’s Prime Minister will reconsider his initial deportation plan, because pressure from abroad and opposition from his own ranks are too strong. It seems that Israel must find a completely different solution to satisfy its own citizens and the international community.

Pia Dittmar

For further information:

Website Frankfurther Allgemeine Zeitung: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/netanjahus-abschiebepolitik-rueckzug-nach-druck-von-rechts-15524001.html

Website Süddeutsche Zeitung:
http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/asylpolitik-israel-setzt-fluechtlingsdeal-mit-den-un-nach-wenigen-stunden-wieder-aus-1.3929162

Website Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/israel-says-it-has-reached-unprecedented-deal-to-resettle-african-migrants-in-the-west/2018/04/02/caf86280-367a-11e8-af3c-2123715f78df_story.html?utm_term=.b313be759240

Website Los Angeles Times:
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-israel-un-refugees-20180402-story.html

Website Die Welt:
https://www.welt.de/politik/article175098803/Rolle-rueckwaerts-Israel-setzt-Uebereinkunft-zu-afrikanischen-Einwanderern-aus.html

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