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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Netanyahu cancels deal on African migrants after right-wing backlash

Israel's prime minister had only announced the agreement in a televised address a day earlier

African migrants and Israelis demonstrate outside the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem against the Israeli government's policy towards African refugees and asylum seekers. Menahem Kahana/ AFP Photo
African migrants and Israelis demonstrate outside the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem against the Israeli government's policy towards African refugees and asylum seekers. Menahem Kahana/ AFP Photo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he was cancelling a deal with the UN refugee agency, in which thousands of African migrants would have been resettled in the West.

Mr Netanyahu had only announced the agreement in a televised address on Monday afternoon, a move which drew immediate anger from right-wing politicians, including allies, and many of his traditional supporters.

He said in a late-night Facebook post on Monday he was suspending the agreement that would have allowed thousands of the migrants to remain in Israel at least temporarily. On Tuesday, he said the deal was being cancelled after holding discussions on it.

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"After having heard numerous comments on the agreement, I have examined the pros and cons and have decided to cancel the agreement," Mr Netanyahu said.

The agreement was designed to end the possibility of forced deportations of thousands of migrants to Rwanda under a controversial plan put forward by Mr Netanyahu in January.

Under the agreement with the UN, a minimum of 16,250 migrants would have instead been resettled in western nations.

In return, Israel would grant temporary residency to one migrant for each one resettled elsewhere.

The presence of the primarily Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in Israel has become a key political issue.

Mr Netanyahu is already under heavy political pressure after a string of graft investigations.