Israel in talks with 5 African countries to accept illegal migrants

African migrants in Israel

In the wake of the decision to back away from U.N. agreement on resettling 16,000 migrants, Israeli authorities have approached five unnamed African countries for talks • Talks are being held clandestinely for fear of NGOs scuttling any deal.

Israel is in talks with five African countries to explore the possibility of having them take some of its illegal migrants, Israel Hayom has learned.

Israel and the U.N. struck a tentative deal several months ago that would have resulted in some 16,000 migrants being resettled overseas, but shortly afterward Israel announced it was pulling out of that arrangement, saying it was insufficient.

Israeli officials told Israel Hayom that with the U.N. arrangement off the table, the National Security Council was tasked with leading efforts to find an alternative arrangement with five African countries. The countries approached have not been identified, as Israel fears this would derail the negotiations. In the past, when certain NGOs learned of emerging deals with African countries, they put those countries under pressure and effectively torpedoed any agreements.

Until recently, the state has issued notices of imminent deportation to many of the tens of thousands of African migrants in Israel. The notices offered each migrant a grant of $3,500 to depart Israel, and warned that noncompliance would result in incarceration.

However, the deportations were challenged by local NGOs, and the High Court of Justice ultimately issued an injunction against them.

Meanwhile, residents of impoverished south Tel Aviv, who say their neighborhoods have been further hurt by the large concentrations of illegal migrants, announced Tuesday that they are launching a new campaign to pressure the government to act. As part of the campaign, a large demonstration will be held near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem this Thursday.

The Israeli Immigration Policy Center said the new campaign is necessary because the “the government has been at a standstill, and this has created anarchy in southern Tel Aviv.”

According to the center, “more than 20,000 infiltrators have left Israel, mostly to their country of origin.”

Meanwhile, some 200 Eritrean asylum seekers gathered outside the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Monday to protest comments by their country’s ambassador, Tesfamariam Tekeste, who said he had sent people to beat them up for speaking out against their country’s dictatorship.

Blutus Iyasu, an organizer with the group United Eritreans for Justice, said the ambassador’s representatives have attacked, harassed and threatened them in south Tel Aviv, creating a climate of fear and division in the beleaguered community.

“They are trying to crush the spirit of standing up against the government,” said Iyasu. He said they were targeted because of their work to promote democracy in their home country.

“We are saying that this embassy is not representing us,” Iyasu said. “I am showing that I am against the government in Eritrea.”

Eritreans make up the majority of the 35,000 African asylum seekers in Israel

They say they fled danger and persecution from their country, which has forced lifetime military conscription in slavery-like conditions. Eritrea has one of the world’s worst human rights records, and the asylum seekers fear death if they are made to return.

The Eritrean Embassy had no comment.