Africans In Israel To Stay, As Govt Cancelled Deportations, Extends Visas
According to The Times of Israel, the government said, “At this stage there is no possibility of implementing involuntary deportations to a third country. Therefore, as of April 17, 2018, [the state] has ceased to hold hearings as part of the deportation policy, and no more deportation decisions will be made at this time”.
African asylum seekers and activists protest against plans to deport migrants at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on March 24, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Last week, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special emissary to Uganda returned without a signed agreement after 11 days of negotiations in Kampala, the court ordered the release of 200 African migrants from the Saharonim Prison, where they had been held since refusing to leave Israel voluntarily.
Earlier in April, 58 migrants were freed from Saharonim after a similar reported deal with Rwanda fell through.
A wide coalition of critics in Israel and in the Jewish American community had called Israel’s deportation plans unethical and a stain on the country’s image as a refuge for Jewish migrants. Several mass protests against it have taken place in several Israeli cities in recent months.
The expulsion policy drew further criticism after Netanyahu last month bowed to coalition pressure and nixed his own deal with the United Nations under which roughly half of the migrants would have been resettled in the West and others absorbed in Israel.
Israel considers most of about 35,000 African migrants to be job seekers and says it has no legal obligation to keep them, and officials commonly refer to them as “infiltrators”.
The Africans started moving toward Israel in 2005 after neighboring Egypt violently quashed a refugee demonstration and word spread of safety and job opportunities in Israel.
Israel has struggled with what to do with those already in the country, alternating between plans to jail and deport them and allowing them to work in menial jobs.
Thousands are concentrated in poor neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv, an area that has become known as “Little Africa”.