Israel said on Monday it has canceled a plan to deport African migrants to Africa and reached an agreement with the U.N. refugee agency to send more than 16,000 to Western countries instead.
Other migrants, many of whom are seeking asylum, will be allowed to remain in Israel for at least the next five years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
Netanyahu named Canada, Italy and Germany as some of the nations that will take in the migrants - although they appeared not to have been informed of the plan yet.
The fate of some 37,000 Africans in Israel has posed a moral dilemma for a state founded as a haven for Jews from persecution and a national home. The right-wing government is under pressure from its nationalist voter base to expel the migrants, while others are calling for them to be taken in.
In February, Israel started handing out notices to 20,000 male African migrants giving them two months to leave the country or risk being thrown in jail.
The Israeli government has offered migrants, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea, $3,500 and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination in another country in sub-Saharan Africa, which Israeli media reports identified as Rwanda.