Italy 'unaware' of resettlement deal for African migrants from Israel

Italy is not involved in any agreement concerning a bilateral accord between Israel and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR to resettle thousands of African migrants, according to the foreign ministry.

"We clarify that there is no accord with Italy in respect of the bilateral pact between Israel and UNHCR to resettle migrants over a period of five years who entered Israel from Africa and which Israel promised not to expel," the foreign ministry said on Monday.

The statement came after Israel announced on Monday that it had agreed with UNHCR to drop a controversial plan to expel African migrants and replace it with a new one to send at least 16,250 migrants - mainly from Sudan and Eritrea - to Western countries.

Israel's premier Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address that the African migrants would be resettled in Western nations including Canada, Germany and Italy under the agreement.

Like Italy, Germany also said it was unaware of the Israel-UNHCR pact to resettle the African migrants but its interior ministry stated that Berlin always upheld its humanitarian commitments.

The earlier plans to send the African migrants to a third country - reportedly Uganda or Rwanda - had drawn sharp criticism from the UNHCR as well as from some Israelis and rights activists.