Israel cancels its mass deportation of African asylum seekers

Israel cancels its mass deportation of African asylum seekers
3 min read
02 April, 2018
Israel has canceled its plan to mass deport thousands of African asylum seekers after reaching a deal with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Rwandan refugees protesting against anti-black policies in Israel [Getty]

Israel canceled its plan for the mass deportation of African refugees on Monday, after it reached reached an agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 

The deal says at least 16,000 asylum seekers - around half the total planned to be deported - will be taken in by Western countries, according to Haaretz.

An announcement from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office said Israel will continue to address the legal status of some African Jewish asylum seekers in Israel.

The new plan will be implemented over the space of five years in three phases, Netanyahu’s office added. 

Out of the 42,000 African migrants in Israel, 39,000 of the asylum seekers are from Sudan and Eritrea.

Late March, thousands of people protested in central Tel Aviv against Israel's plan to deport Eritreans and Sudanese who entered the country illegally.

More than 20,000 people - migrants and Israelis - took part in the rally, with footage broadcast live on the Ynet news website showing them chanting: "we are all human beings".

"There is no difference between their blood and our blood," chanted the demonstrators.

Israel's supreme court earlier this month suspended the controversial government plan to deport thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese migrants in response to a challenge from those opposed to the move.

Anti-blackness in Israeli society

Along with Israel's systematic hostility towards the native Palestinian population, anti-blackness is prevalent in Israel.

Treatment of Africans of Jewish descent has been under the spotlight, with many Israelis viewing them as a liability.

Netanyahu claimed in recent weeks that African migrants are a greater threat to Israel than jihadis and praised an electrified fence running out along its southern border.

He said the fence on Israel's border with Egypt had prevented jihadi attacks, or what he believes could be even worse - a "tide" of African migrants.

"Were it not for the fence, we would be faced with severe attacks by Sinai terrorists, and something much worse - a flood of illegal migrants from Africa," his office quoted him as saying in a development conference in the southern Israeli town of Dimona.

Such rhetoric can even be found in the religious sphere.

One of Israel's chief rabbis late March came under fire for likening African-Americans to "monkeys" during a recent sermon explaining Jewish law.

Yitzhak Yosef, the top rabbi for Sephardi Jews or those of Middle Eastern descent, made the controversial comments on Saturday, while explaining religious scripture on making blessings during the current Hebrew month.

"You can't make the blessing on every 'kushi' you see - in America you see one every five minutes, so you make it only on a person with a white father and mother," Yosef explained, using an offensive term in modern Hebrew for Africans.

"So you make it only on a person with a white father and mother. How do would you know? You know if they had a monkey for a son," the rabbi added.