Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at cabinet meeting
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at cabinet meetingFlash90

Is the Israeli government planning a new deportation program to remove a large portion of its illegal immigrant population?

Despite years of efforts to secure a solution to Israel’s illegal immigration problem, plans to forcibly remove thousands of infiltrators who illegally entered the country from Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia via the Sinai Peninsula have been stymied by left-wing NGOs and successive Supreme Court rulings.

Over the last two years, Israel has deported thousands of illegal aliens residing in Israel – most of them foreign workers from Eastern Europe who overstayed their work visas. The planned mass-deportations of thousands of African illegal immigrants, however – most of whom reside in south Tel Aviv – has sparked protests from activists who say deportees would be placed in mortal danger if sent back to Africa. Despite this, thousands of infiltrators have self-deported over the past five years, accepting $3,500 in cash and plane tickets in exchange for their agreement to leave the country.

While a majority of Israelis back the deportation of the approximately 35,000 infiltrators in Israel – not including thousands of children born to infiltrators – left-wing opponents of a recent plan to send thousands of illegal aliens to third countries in Africa, widely believed to be Rwanda and Uganda, have pressure those countries to rescind their agreements with Israel.

The Supreme Court has also repeatedly blocked plans to deport infiltrators. Last month, the court froze a plan to deport thousands of illegal immigrants just weeks before the program was slated to begin.

In 2017, the court barred a similar deportation plan, on the grounds that Israel’s agreement with the third countries covered only voluntary self-deportations.

Following the recent court ruling and Rwanda’s backtracking on the deal, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu engaged the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for a solution, and ultimately struck a deal which would have granted more than 16,000 illegal immigrants recognized status in Israel.

In exchange, the UNHCR vowed “work to facilitate the departure” of 16,250 infiltrators to Western countries. Thousands of additional infiltrators would not be affected by the agreement.

Under pressure from coalition partners and pro-deportation activists, however, Netanyahu nixed the deal a day later.

But coalition members appear determined to revive the original deportation plan, and have drafted a law to bypass the Supreme Court’s objections.

At the same time, Israel reportedly has contracted with an African country to accept thousands of deportees.

According to a report by Yediot Ahronot, Israel paid the country last month as part of the agreement, which began prior to Netanyahu’s deal with the UNHCR.

On Monday, hundreds of anti-deportation activists protested in Tel Aviv against the government’s efforts to revive its deportation plans, and called on the Ugandan government to rescind its deal with Israel.

“Uganda, say ‘no’ to deportation,” demonstrators chanted.

Similar protests were held outside of Ugandan embassies in Europe.