Migrants in Israel to resettle in Germany, Italy, Canada: Netanyahu

Migrants in Israel to resettle in Germany, Italy, Canada: Netanyahu

Netanyahu said in his remarks on Monday that he had to abandon the earlier plan because the option of sending them to a third country "no longer exists".

Israel and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have reached an agreement "for the departure of at least 16,250 migrants.to Western nations", the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday, adding that the agreement would allow the removal of more migrants from Israel than in the previous plan.

"This is a unique agreement between the United Nations commissioner and the state of Israel, that takes 16,250 people out, takes them out to developed countries like Canada, or Germany and Italy", Netanyahu said on live television.

Where are the migrants from?

The Israeli government has offered migrants, majority from Sudan and Eritrea, $3,500 and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination.

The African migrants started moving toward Israel in 2005, after neighboring Egypt violently quashed a refugee demonstration and word spread of safety and job opportunities in Israel.

A lot of them entered from Egypt several years ago, before a new fence was built along the desert border.

The original decision that was reached in January was to offer the migrants a cash lump-sum and a plane ticket to leave Israel voluntarily or otherwise face forced expulsion.

Some critics in the country and among the Jewish community overseas - including former ambassadors and Holocaust survivors - said the plan was unethical and a stain on Israel's worldwide image.

Mr Netanyahu said the opposition was "baseless and absurd" and that Israel would resettle "genuine refugees".

Rwanda and Uganda have said they would not accept those deported against their will.

He called it a "total surrender to the false campaign in the media" and said the credibility of the government was at stake.

The largest community of African migrants, about 15,000, lives in south Tel Aviv, in a poor neighbourhood where shops are dotted with signs in Tigrinya and other African languages and abandoned warehouses have been converted into churches for the largely Christian Eritreans. According to the agreement, Israel will deport over 16,000 refugees and grant temporary residency status to 16,000 other refugees within a time frame of five years.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the minister, Hursh Jaswal, did not comment on the specific agreement, instead saying that the government remains in contact with the UNHCR and cited prior commitments to finalize the current 1,845 private sponsorship applications and to resettle 4,000 Eritrean refugees from various parts of the world by the end of 2018.

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