Israel abandons plan to forcibly deport African migrants
The Israeli government said on Tuesday it was abandoning a plan to forcibly deport African migrants who entered the country illegally.
The government had been working for months on an arrangement to expel thousands of mostly Eritrean and Sudanese men who crossed into Israel through Egypt’s Sinai desert.
“At this stage, the possibility of carrying out an unwilling deportation to a third country is not on the agenda,” the government wrote in a response to the court.
The migrants, it said, will again be able to renew residency permits every 60 days, as they were before the deportation push.
The migrants and rights groups say they are seeking asylum and are fleeing war and persecution. The government says they are job seekers and that it has every right to protect its borders.
Around 4,000 migrants have left Israel for Rwanda and Uganda since 2013 under a voluntary programme, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under pressure from his right-wing voter base to expel thousands more.
After leaving a UN-backed relocation plan a few weeks ago, Israel shifted efforts towards finalising an arrangement to send the migrants against their will to Uganda.
A number of migrant rights groups petitioned the Supreme Court to block any such policy.