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Africans in Israel Voice Concern over New Resettlement Plan

Africans in Israel Voice Concern over New Resettlement Plan

African asylum seekers in Israel have voiced concern over Tel Aviv’s agreement with the UN to resettle half of them in Western countries.

A number of African migrants and asylum seekers told Al Jazeera they remain sceptical that the new plan could bring any real change for those who are to stay in Israel.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that Israel had reached an unprecedented understanding with the United Nations to help resettle at least 16,250 African migrants in “developed countries like Canada, or Germany and Italy,” instead of Africa.

Hours after the announcement, Netanyahu said he would suspend the new plan, which was denounced by right-wingers in his government.

Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post on Monday night that he was putting the agreement on hold until he meets with representatives from south Tel Aviv – where a large number of African asylum seekers live – along with Interior Minister Arye Dery.

Confusing matters further, both the German embassy in Israel and the Italian foreign ministry reported to the media that they were not aware of receiving any requests regarding asylum seekers.

The new deal would allow those who stay in Israel, mainly women and children to be able to apply for asylum.

“As part of this agreement, they will all receive a visa so that they will be able to stay in Israel with a legal status and that is very important,” William Spindler, spokesperson for UNHCR told Al Jazeera following the announcement of the agreement.

“They will be able to apply for asylum if they are in fear of persecution in their countries of origin; their cases would need to be assessed.

“What we must remember is in the case of Eritreans for instance, a very high proportion of them are recognised as refugees in Europe, over 90 percent,” Spindler said.

“In the case of Sudanese, their proportion is also very high. So we think that most of these asylum seekers will qualify for refugee status.”

‘We’re still going to suffer’

Journalist David Sheen criticised the deal for merely postponing the expulsion of the remaining non-Jewish African refugees in Israel.

“Just like the shady Rwanda & Uganda deals, this UN deal is no ‘victory’ for African refugees. 16,000 men will get chances at normal lives – which is more than they get in Israel – but the remaining 24,000 will have to start over with nothing in five years time,” Sheen wrote.

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