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UNHCR involved in finding safe alternative to Rwanda

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UNHCR involved in finding safe alternative to Rwanda

An African refugee in south Tel Aviv wears a T-shirt with a Hebrew phrase referring to the Holocaust: “I promise to remember… and never forget!” (Reuters). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Two days after Rwanda was determined not to meet the safety standards set by the High Court of Justice for deported African migrants, the UNHCR announced it is in talks with the Israeli government to find a humane third country, and possibly allow asylum-seekers to remain in Israel.

On Tuesday night, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the government would not properly monitor the fate of the 20,000 Eritrean and Sudanese men who received deportation notices earlier this week if they were implemented as planned.

The Interior Ministry issued the notices on Sunday to single Eritrean and Sudanese men of working age who entered Israel illegally, demanding that they leave the country within 60 days for an unspecified third country, or be deported or imprisoned.

The ministry recently announced that married men, women and children will not be subjected to deportation or imprisonment for the time being.

According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, since 2013, the ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority has reviewed only 6,500 of the 15,000 asylum applications submitted, and approved 11.

On Thursday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees confirmed it is in negotiations with Israel to resettle a portion of African asylum- seekers in third countries deemed by the UN to be “safe,” The Times of Israel reported.

According to Sharon Harel, external relations officer at UNHCR, options may include Western countries, in exchange for a percentage of the asylum-seekers being given permanent residency in Israel.

The development comes one day after thousands of African migrants protested the impending deportations near the Rwandan Embassy in Herzliya.

If UNHCR’s deal comes to fruition, it would likely halt Israel’s current campaign to deport Africans to either Rwanda or Uganda, Harel said.

“Such an arrangement could be realized, though the necessary details need to be worked out,” Harel told The Times of Israel.

Meanwhile, the anti-deportation movement in Israel and abroad continues to grow, with North American Jewish community leaders, and Holocaust survivors, El Al pilots, doctors, attorneys and intellectuals denouncing the plans as inhumane and antithetical to Jewish values.

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