Israeli PM to cancel deal to resettle migrants

Gaza the Injured Screams for Life

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he was canceling an agreement with the United Nations refugee agency to relocate thousands of African migrants to Western countries.

In a statement on Tuesday, Netanyahu said he held meetings with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and representatives of residents of southern Tel Aviv to discuss the agreement.

Numerous migrants have flocked in recent years to neighbourhoods in southern Tel Aviv, rapidly changing the historically working-class areas into what has become known as "Little Africa" and sparking tension with the local Jewish population.

Under the plan with the UN's refugee agency, Israel would have given residency to half of them, in exchange for Western nations resettling the other half.

A lot of them entered from Egypt several years ago, before a new fence was built along the desert border. The migrants say they are asylum-seekers fleeing danger and persecution, while Israeli leaders have claimed they are merely job seekers.

A Canadian minister said that Canada was already in contact with UNHCR and Israel about accepting more refugees.

The agency, known as the UNHCR, said Tuesday it hoped Netanyahu would change his mind about the cancellation.

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"The delay is not enough, we have to move to a new plan that will move the illegal infiltrators out of Israel", Bennett said.

Implementing the signed agreement was expected to take five years and Netanyahu's backtrack was largely seen in Israel as an attempt to appease his voter base and keep its support at a time of political uncertainty.

A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces on the Gaza border Tuesday, the health ministry in the strip said, as tensions remained days after 17 people were killed when a mass demonstration led to clashes.

"From the moment in the past few weeks that it became clear that the third country as an option doesn't exist, we basically entered a trap where all of them would remain", he said. Netanyahu suspended the deal late Monday just hours after announcing it. Under a deportation initiative being carried out since February, male African migrants had been given notices warning them they had two months to leave the country or face jail.

Rights groups had challenged the deportation in Israel's High Court, which on March 15 issued a temporary order that froze its implementation.

Netanyahu's office quoted him as telling a development conference in the southern Israel desert town of Dimona that if it was not for the fence, the country would be faced with severe attack by Sinai terrorists and something much worse, which he said was a flood of illegal migrants from Africa. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the Jewish Home party, said the deal with the United Nations agency would "turn Israel into a Garden of Eden for infiltrators". He called for the plan to be brought to the Cabinet for a vote.

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