Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR 150.
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office)
speech at United Nations' refugee agency in Geneva Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon slammed its counterpart
responsible for Palestinian refugees as ineffective and "morally and
politically unacceptable."UNHCR, he said, "has assisted us in training our [Refugee Status
Determination] unit and in developing a unique voluntary-return program
to South Sudan based on incentives and vocational training, which we are
very proud of."
Ayalon addressed the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ministerial-level event on the
60th anniversary of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of
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"While the UNHCR has found durable
solutions for tens of millions of refugees," Ayalon said, "the agency
created specifically for the Palestinian context (UNWRA) has found
durable solutions for no one."
"This has meant that a peaceful
solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians remains
further away," the deputy foreign minister added.
said, supports the application of principles governing the treatment of
refugees "to apply universally, without exception, including those in
the Palestinian context."
issue of refugees, Ayalon said, "is a core element" in any solution to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A solution, he added, "would have to
address both the Palestinian and the Jewish refugees forced to flee from
Arab lands." On the same day as giving the speech highlighting the separate refugee agency for Palestinians, Ayalon released a video on the topic.
The deputy foreign minister also addressed Israel's current policies
regarding an influx of refugees an asylum seekers from Africa, lauding
what he described as "full and transparent" cooperation with UNHCR in
trying to formulate the best solutions.
Israel is committed to encouraging voluntary repatriation, Ayalon told
the conference, "through incentives and professional training that will
enable the returnees to rebuild their future."
Earlier Thursday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai vowed to exert every
effort to see that "the last of the infiltrators return to their
countries," referring to the some 50,000 African economic migrants,
asylum seekers and refugees currently in Israel.
Speaking with Army Radio, Yishai dismissed the notion that Sudanese,
Eritreans and other Africans in Israel have any standing to seek
political asylum. "These are not refugees, these are economic migrants
who want to come to Israel for work," he said.
Their presence "is an existential threat" to the State of Israel, he
asserted, vowing to "defend the Jewish majority." The interior minister
added, "Each and every one of them will return to their countries."