Israel has admitted in the High Court of Justice that its plan to deport thousands of asylum seekers had failed “after third countries refused to accept the infiltrators under the conditions Israel demanded, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Dery agreed to immediately reopen the detention facilities for the infiltrators, move to advance new legislation [to circumnavigate High Court rulings] and promote additional measures to solve the problem,” Netanyahu Office’s statement read.
The statement comes slightly over a month after the Holot detention center in the Negev Desert closed its doors behind the last of its “residents;” the majority of the asylum seekers, living in that particular compound, came from Eritrea and Sudan.
Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan took to Twitter to say that there was “no point in reopening Holot without advancing the legislation” that would allow the lawmakers to re-enact laws overturned by the High Court of Justice. According to Erdan, with such legislation, Israel would be enabled to “re-legislate the laws that allowed Holot to serve as a deterrent for infiltrators and pushed them to leave the country. Reopening the facility without the legislation will only set up a hotel for infiltrators.”
The prime minister’s office, in turn, released a statement, stating that Israel would call time on pre-deportation hearings for the asylum seekers, adding that previous decisions have been annulled.
“Israel will continue to act on the issue of the infiltrators, including attempts to encourage them to leave of their own accord or relocating them involuntarily, in accordance with the law. Israel’s immigration officials will continue to refer infiltrators to the ‘voluntary departure’ office, allowing them to relocate to a third country, but without conditioning the renewal of their legal status of their willingness to leave to a third country,” the statement said.
Earlier this week, eighteen Jewish members of the US Congress wrote a letter calling on Netanyahu to reconsider the deal Israel had reached and canceled with the United Nations Refugee Agency regarding the relocation of African migrants to European states
According to the “groundbreaking” deal, that should have been implemented over five years, some 16,000 asylum seekers should have been deported to Western nations, however, the prime minister has decided to continue his search for a better solution of the problem.
“Israel and the UN Refugee Agency have reached an unprecedented agreement over the issue of migrants. UNHCR will be working at moving these migrants to western countries, while Israel will be working at settling the refugee status of those, who stay,” the statement read.
Netanyahu’s decision to cancel the deal came just a day after the agreement was reached.
In early January, Israel presented a plan to cut off the stream of illegal migrants, forcing thousands of refugees to leave the country by April 2018. Those, who would have refused to leave voluntarily, would have inevitably faced arrest.
According to the Israeli government’s estimates, about 27,000 Eritreans, some 7,500 Sudanese and around 2,500 people from other African nations currently reside in the Jewish state, while a majority of them have no relevant permission to stay.
Israel came up with a plan to force out tens of thousands of African asylum seekers last year, when Prime Minister Netanyahu made a statement emphasizing that the refugees “are seen by many Israelis as a law and order issue and even a threat to the long-term viability of the Jewish state.”