Israel scraps contested plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants

Israel plan to forcibly deport illegal African migrants 'no longer on agenda' - govt

The Israeli government's plan for deporting illegal African migrants collapsed on Tuesday after High Court interventions and a prolonged campaign of protests from migrants, rights activists, center-left politicians, lawyers and immigration experts.

"State officials said during a Supreme Court session that they would not distribute new deportation orders, and that those already distributed would be cancelled".

"At this stage there is no possibility of implementing involuntary deportations to a third country".

The Israeli government, however, considers them "infiltrators" and says the bulk of them are simply job seekers looking for a better life.

In early April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to cancel the plan, saying a new agreement with the United Nations would allow 16,000 migrants to be transferred to "developed countries like Canada, Germany or Italy".

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Most of the migrants have settled in a number of poor neighborhoods in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, the country's economic capital.

In his letter sent Monday, the politicians noted that they "were dismayed that the Treaty was suspended, then cancelled, depriving citizens of Sudan and Eritrea asylum-seekers in limbo without a clear plan of action".

In an interview with The Washington Post in February, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said the global conventions signed by Israel related to refugees and not to economic migrants.

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.

But within hours he was forced scrap that plan, too, after coming under attack from his coalition partners, who said allowing thousands of the migrants to stay in Israel was inconsistent with the government's policies.

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