German Officials to Haaretz: Contrary to Netanyahu's Remark, We Weren’t Asked to Receive Asylum Seekers From Israel

Netanyahu said under new deal signed with UN, Germany, Canada and Italy are among Western countries to absorb African asylum seekers deported by Israel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel leads her cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany March 28, 2018.
\ FABRIZIO BENSCH/ REUTERS

The German embassy in Israel told Haaretz Monday that Germany has not received any request by the UN refugee agency or by the Israeli government to absorb African asylum seekers deported by Israel.

UPDATE: Netanyahu suspends asylum seeker deal with UN after right-wing pushback

The Italian Foreign Ministry, in a statement to the Italian newspaper La Republica, also denied having reached any agreement with Israel regarding asylum seekers.

>>Israel's asylum seeker deal with the UN is great news. But don't call it a victory | Mutasim Ali, Opinion

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that under a new deal signed with the agency, canceling Israel's mass deportation plan, Germany, Canada and Italy would be among Western countries to absorb asylum seekers deported by Israel.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office later explained, however, that Netanyahu merely mentioned those countries as examples. According to the sources, the UN – and not Israel – will conduct negotiations with the Western countries involved in the deal.

"A request to accept refugees living in Israel, in particular from African countries, as part of the resettlement program of the UNHCR in Germany, is not known to us," the German embassy said.

"Germany has always fully complied with its humanitarian obligations in recent years, ia. through the admission of resettlement refugees, and will continue to do so in the future," the statement added.

>> Everything you need to know about Israel's mass deportation of asylum seekers ■ African lives matter. Except on Passover eve. Except now | Opinion

In a statement to La Republica, the Italian Foreign Ministry said "There is no agreement whatsoever between Italy, Israel and the UNHCR on the resettlement of asylum seekers (from Israel) over the next 5 years."

Vice President of the senate in Italy, Roberto Calderoli of the Northern League, said there is "No way we are going to do this— if anything, when the new government is formed we will kick out our illegal migrants, certainly not take the ones expelled by Israel, too!" 

Speaking at a news conference, Netanyahu said the plan to deport asylum seekers to "a third country" was scrapped when "it became clear that the third country did not meet the [required] conditions," adding that this country "did not withstand the pressure."

Interior Minister Arye Dery added that following tough negotiations with the UNHCR, Israel had agreed to resettle one asylum seeker in a Western country for every asylum seeker awarded temporary residency status in Israel.

In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office gave these numbers as 16,250 each. Currently more than 39,000 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea live in Israel, so the fate of the remaining 6,500 is unclear.