Israel in deal to resettle Africa migrants, then backtracks

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FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, asylum seekers march during a protest outside Israeli Prison Saharonim, in the Negev desert, southern Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Monday, April 2, 2018, that it has reached an agreement with the United Nations refugee agency to scrap plans to deport African asylum seekers and will resettle many in Western countries instead. Israel said it reached an "unprecedented understandings" with the U.N. in which Israel will send more than 16,000 migrants to various Western countries willing to absorb them. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

PV International Desk : Israel announced a deal with the U.N. on Monday to resettle African migrants in Western nations, but hours later put the agreement on hold.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced the deal on national TV, saying Israel agreed to cancel the planned expulsion of tens of thousands of African migrants. He said the deal with the United Nations called for sending half of them to Western nations and allowing the rest to remain in Israel.

Late Monday, Netanyahu said he was “suspending” the deal in order to discuss the arrangement Tuesday with Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv areas with large migrant populations.

“After meeting with the representatives I will re-examine the agreement again,” he said.

Under the deal, roughly half of the 35,000 migrants living in Israel would be resettled in the West. But the rest would stay in Israel.

The migrant community is concentrated in south Tel Aviv, angering longtime Israeli residents of the working-class area. Israeli hard-liners had criticized the deal for allowing so many Africans to remain.

The late-night turnaround threw into limbo the surprise agreement, which had finally offered a solution to an issue that has divided Israel for a decade. The deportation plan had been widely criticized at home and abroad, even by some of Israel’s closest supporters.