Ayalon slams Palestinian refugee double standard

Deputy FM addresses UNHCR on 60th anniversary of refugee convention, says Israel cooperates with organization in repatriation of Africans.

December 8, 2011 15:36
2 minute read.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR 150. (photo credit: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office)


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In a 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."

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 Refugees.

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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.

Israel, he said, supports the application of principles governing the treatment of refugees "to apply universally, without exception, including those in the Palestinian context."

The 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.

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."

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."

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