Israel announced on Monday that it reached an agreement with the United Nations to allow the deportation of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Israel to Western countries.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the deal discussed between the Prime Minister’s Office and the UN High Commission on Refugees stipulates that Israel could immediately deport some 16,250 people while granting temporary residency to thousands of others.
The government report said that 16,000 asylum seekers would be deported from Israel, with the assistance and direct intervention of Western countries, and an additional 16,000 would be allowed to stay as long as they meet thus far undisclosed criteria, which are to be determined through cooperation between Israel and the commission.
“The plan is divided into three stages and is spread over five years, at the end of which the reality of life in south Tel Aviv and the neighborhoods will significantly improve,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office read. “The agreement was approved by the Attorney General and is consistent with international law and accepted practice.”
Israeli diplomatic sources characterised the agreement as unprecedented as the UN rarely engages in efforts to actively expel asylum seekers from their current country of residence and credit the move to intense deliberations held over the past few months.
Last month, the High Court of Justice issued an emergency injunction instructing the state to suspend its April 1 plan to start deporting single adult male migrants to third-party countries in Africa, believed to be Rwanda and Uganda.
Israel has long maintained that it has signed such agreements, but has yet to present the details either publicly or to the court.
The deportation plan came under severe criticism, with human rights organizations saying Israel was sending the asylum seekers, mostly Eritrean and Sudanese nationals, to their deaths.
The government will also set up a special unit to help rehabilitate the neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv, which were most affected by a massive influx of African migrants in the early 2010’s.
In addition, as part of the agreement, a major effort will be put forth to more evenly distribute the asylum seeker population across Israel and assist with job placement and training for some of the asylum seekers who are to remain in the country.