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African migrants put Israel's Jewish democratic state at risk, Netanyahu says

Prime Minister's remarks come as an Israeli court halted government plans to deport the migrants

    African migrants and Israelis demonstrate with their arms crossed in Tel Aviv last month
    African migrants and Israelis demonstrate with their arms crossed in Tel Aviv last month (Photo: Getty Images)

    The Netanyahu government’s plan to deport over 30,000 African migrants from Israel was dealt another setback after a court ordered a temporary halt to the scheme.

    Last week’s ruling by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut stopped all deportations and the arrest of anyone who refuses to voluntarily leave Israel.

    It prompted Benjamin Netanyahu to warn on Tuesday that the arrival of African migrants put Israel’s “Jewish democratic” state at risk.

    “If we didn’t have the (border) fence (with Egypt) we would be helpless in the face of terror attacks from Sinai and the worst thing — a deluge of illegal infiltrators from Africa,” he said.

    It came after Hanan Meltzer, another court judge, noted that the governments of Rwanda and Uganda both denied having secret agreements with Israel to receive migrants.

    The judge said it is essential to know what agreements exist so the deportees can be protected under their terms.

    With the first deportations scheduled to begin next month, the first migrants who refused to leave were arrested a fortnight ago.

    As part of the process, the Holot detention facility — where migrants were held by night but allowed to leave during the day — was closed last week. The migrants there were told to sign a statement promising not to move to cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

    Two thirds of the African migrants in Israel are from Eritrea and many cited their desertion from the army there as grounds for their asylum applications.

    Immigration authorities in Israel had decided these grounds were insufficient, but were ordered by a lower court two months to reconsider the deserters’ applications.

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