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Amid a public outcry, Israel is scaling back its African migrant deportations

Authorities plan to send 600 people a month to Rwanda, down from 30,000 this year

    Israel's African migrants have become a controversial political issue
    Israel's African migrants have become a controversial political issue (Photo: Flash90)

    Israel has scaled back proposals to deport thousands of African migrants over planning issues and a public outcry that extended across the world.

    The National Security Council (NSC) now envisages a monthly deportation rate of 600 to include only unmarried adult men.

    And the plans were further complicated when Rwanda, the destination intended for the migrants, said it would not accept anyone deported against their will.

    The NSC’s original target, formulated on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s orders, was to send 30,000 illegal migrants to Rwanda, irrespective of age, sex or nationality, by the end of 2018.

    But the Prisons Service, which was not consulted on the plans, made clear they had no room for thousands of potential deportees who were to be detained if they refused to “voluntarily” leave.

    The government also received legal advice that Israel could not forcibly deport migrants who hadn’t yet had an opportunity to claim political asylum.

    Immigration chief Shlomo Mor Yosef said this week that no one who was eligible for asylum would be deported.

    But refugee rights activists claim the government is making it difficult for migrants to claim asylum by not appointing sufficient officials to process the requests, and say just twelve of the 15,000 requests made for asylum were approved

    Mr Netanyahu launched an apparent charm offensive towards Rwanda last week after the country’s government said it had not struck a secret deal to accept Israel’s forcible deportees.

    The Prime Minister met President Paul Kagame at the World Economic Forum in Davos last Thursday, while Israel supported Rwanda at the United Nations in a controversial resolution concerning the definition of its 1994 genocide.

    “Israel is not Africa’s employment agency,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in a radio interview this week.

    There are currently 34,187 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants in Israel liable for deportation, according to the Population and Immigration Authority.

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