Israel said on Monday that it has given up the deportation of illegal African immigrants to Africa and has reached an agreement with UNHCR to send more than 16,000 immigrants to Western countries.
Other immigrants, many of whom seek asylum, will be able to remain in Israel for at least the next five years, according to a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
The fate of some 37,000 Africans in Israel is a moral dilemma for that country.
The right-wing government is under pressure from a nationalist polling station, which requires it to expel immigrants, while others call for immigrants to provide shelter.
In February, Israel began delivering notifications to 20,000 male African immigrants, giving them two months to leave the country or otherwise end up in jail.
However, human rights groups claim that many immigrants escaped from abuse and war, and that expulsion, even in another country in Africa, would further jeopardize them.
The groups disputed the deportation plan at the Israeli High Court, which on March 15 issued a provisional decision that froze the implementation of the plan.
“Israel and the UNHCR have achieved unprecedented understanding of the departure of at least 16,250 immigrants to Western countries,” the statement said, which does not specify which countries are spoken.
A UNHCR spokeswoman confirmed that an agreement was reached, but she did not want to go into details.