UNHCR hopes for solution to plight of refugees in Israel

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The United Nations refugee agency has expressed frustration with Israel’s’ decision to cancel an agreement to resettle thousands of migrants, but says it remains hopeful a solution can be found.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday cancelled the deal his country had reached with the UNHCR on Monday, saying he had reached the latest decision after holding consultations with the residents of south Tel Aviv, where many of the migrants live.

He said he would now consider “all options… to remove the infiltrators”.

Israel had earlier this year given the migrants two options; to take US$ 3,500 and a one-way ticket to Africa by April, or face forced deportation or jail.

Most of the migrants – mainly hailing from Eritrea and war-torn South Sudan – have however expressed fear at returning to their countries or any other African country, saying their safety wouldn’t be guaranteed.

UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said forcing the refugees back to Africa would only put their lives at risk.

“Once the refugees arrived there, they find very little possibility to integrate. Many of them do not feel safe there and then they continue long dangerous routes, risking their lives, once again, because many of them went through terrible ordeals before they arrived in Israel. So, once again they will be on the move,” he said.

However, Spindler said the current situation is not tenable and ultimately Israel and the UNHCR must find a way out of this impasse.

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