African migrants walk outside Holot open detention center in Israel's southern Negev desert.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Eighteen of the 21 Jewish members of the US House of Representatives wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday protesting his policy reversal on an agreement with the United Nations to resettle African refugees.
The lawmakers, all Democrats, wrote of their “concern” and “dismay” at the prime minister’s aboutface.
Neither of the two Republican Jewish members of the House signed the letter.
Approximately 38,000 refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, fleeing potential persecution in their home countries, have sought asylum in Israel.
Netanyahu had agreed with the UN high commissioner for refugees on a resettlement plan, but scrapped the plan when he faced pressure from within his political coalition.
“We were heartened by the news that an agreement had been reached between Israel and the UNHCR to resettle over the course of five years at least 16,250 of the asylum seekers in various Western countries and to allow the remaining individuals to stay in Israel,” the letter reads.
“However, within a few hours, we were dismayed to hear that the agreement had been suspended, then canceled.”
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“We recognize that all countries must make difficult decisions regarding immigration that balance a variety of competing priorities.
It is not our role as US lawmakers to proscribe or even recommend a solution to the situation,” it continues.
“However, we believe it is critical that any resolution is reached thoughtfully and ensures the safety and dignity of all those involved.”
Several signatories of the letter – including Adam Schiff of California, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Jamie Raskin of Maryland – visited Israel last month and met with the premier.
The asylum deal was permanently canceled days later.
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