Netanyahu Cancels Israel-UN Deal on African Migrants

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

Netanyahu first announced the agreement on Monday, and hours later said he was suspending the deal.

He said Tuesday that after listening to complaints and re-evaluating the situation, he was canceling the agreement.

The plan would have sent 16,250 migrants to nations such as Canada, Italy and Germany, the prime minister initially said. But later Germany said it was unaware of any plans to resettle African migrants.

Guy Ziv, an assistant professor at American University, told VOA that discrepancy was embarrassing for Netanyahu, and that the opposition to the overall deal came primarily from the right-wing members of his base who did not like that thousands of migrants would remain in Israel.

"They're saying it would just encourage others to take advantage of Israel's hospitality and come there illegally and stay there indefinitely," Ziv said.

Israel is home to roughly 35,000 African migrants, most of them from Eritrea, which has one of the world’s worst human rights records, or from war-torn Sudan. The migrants say they are asylum-seekers fleeing danger and persecution, while Israeli leaders have said they are merely job seekers.

Netanyahu’s right-wing government rejects claims by the Africans that they are refugees, describing them as "infiltrators" and economic migrants.

The migrants also have become a political issue, with religious and conservative politicians portraying the presence of Muslim and Christian Africans as a threat to Israel's Jewish character.

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