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Israel Cancels New Deal to Relocate African Migrants


African migrants wear chains to represent slavery during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 3, 2018.

Israel did an about-face after agreeing to a compromise on illegal immigration from Africa.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled the new agreement with the U.N. Refugee Agency to send 16,000 African migrants to Western countries, after his right-wing coalition partners rejected it.

Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett said it's a bad deal because 20,000 Africans will be allowed to remain in Israel.

Bennett rejected claims by the migrants that they are refugees. He described them as economic migrants and "infiltrators," saying they threaten the Jewish character of the state.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog accused Netanyahu of caving in to hardliners and described the prime minister's about-face as a "theater of the absurd."

Herzog warned the government not to go back to its original plan of the forced expulsion of most of the African migrants in Israel. He said sending them back to Africa is a violation of international law because it would endanger their lives.

The Africans entered Israel illegally over the past decade, most of them coming from war-torn Eritrea and Sudan. They survive by doing menial jobs, mostly in restaurants and hotels.

One of them, Suleiman, who is employed at a restaurant in Tel Aviv, said "all that we ask is to let us work, and everything will be fine."

But now, even their meager livelihood is in jeopardy. A day after welcoming the deal between Israel and the U.N. Refugee Agency, the African community in Israel is back in limbo.

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