April 24, 2018—Israel has admitted in court on Tuesday that its plan to relocate African asylum seekers has fallen through and that currently there is no possibility to forcefully deport the Africans living in Israel.
In a statement, the state said it would stop holding per-deportation hearings for the asylum seekers and that any previous decisions on the matter are now nullified.
A group of human rights groups petitioned Israel's top court last month demanding that those who face deportation be allowed to see the agreements Israel allegedly signed with Rwanda or Uganda. Both African nations deny the existence of such deals.
At the per-deportation
hearings, the state tells asylum seekers that they must leave for “a safe third country under the agreements Israel has with both countries,” even though the agreement with Rwanda collapsed months ago and efforts to negotiate a revised agreement with Uganda have failed.
Israel said on Tuesday that those who received a deportation date would have their status renewed every sixty days, as was the case before the attempt to deport them.
"Israel will continue to act on the issue of the infiltrators" – the term Israel uses to describe asylum seekers – "including attempts to encourage them to leave on their own accord or relocating them involuntarily, in accordance with the law. Israel's immigration officials will continue to refer to infiltrators to the 'voluntary departure' office allowing them to move to a third country, but without conditioning the renewal of their legal status of their willingness to leave to a third country," they said.
Eighteen Jewish members of Congress sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, urging him to reconsider the deal his government reached but then canceled with the United Nations on the deportation of African asylum seekers.
The members, all Democrats, said they were "heartened" by the signing of the agreement and "disappointed" by Netanyahu's swift decision to retract it on April 3 following strong right-wing pressure in Israel.
The UN deal stated that Israel would be able to send as many as 16,500 asylum seekers to Western countries, while allowing a similar number to remain in Israel until a better solution arrives.
Israel negotiated the agreement following the collapse of a prior agreement it reportedly had with Rwanda to deport thousands of asylum seekers to that country.
After canceling the UN deal, Netanyahu has signaled that he is once again examining ways of forcibly deporting asylum seekers to an unspecified "third country" in Africa – most likely Uganda.
© 2018 | Haaretz