Africans rally in second day of protests against Israeli detention

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

Thousands of African asylum seekers stage a protest in Tel Aviv on January 5, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Jack Guez)

Published Monday, January 6, 2014

Several thousand African migrants protested outside Western embassies in Tel Aviv on Monday, in the second day of demonstrations demanding freedom for compatriots jailed by Israel in a desert facility under a new open-ended detention law.

"No more prison," chanted the crowd that packed a Mediterranean beachfront promenade across from the US embassy.

Protesters also marched to the French, Italian, British, Canadian and German embassies to hand over letters appealing for international support against Israel's detention policy toward migrants it sees as illegal job-seekers.

Three weeks ago, Israel's parliament approved the law permitting authorities to detain migrants without valid visas indefinitely. The measure has been condemned by critics as a violation of human rights.

Some 60,000 migrants, largely from Eritrea and Sudan, have crossed into occupied Palestine across a once-porous border with Egypt since 2006, Israeli authorities say.

Many say they want asylum and safe haven, but Israeli authorities have described them "infiltrators" who threaten Israel's so-called Jewish character.

Tens of thousands of Africans demonstrated outside Tel Aviv city hall on Sunday on behalf of what human rights groups said are more than 300 migrants arrested since the detention law went into effect.

Dozens more have been summoned for detention, among them men with wives and children, rights activists and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) said.

The new detention facility resembles a half-way house. Detainees can leave but must report back three times a day, including at nightfall, and may be held without a time limit pending repatriation, implementation of deportation orders or resolution of their asylum requests.

"Placing asylum-seekers in duress that may force them to opt to return without having examined their asylum claims could amount to a violation" of international refugee conventions, Walpurga Englbrecht, the UNHCR representative in Israel, said in a statement on Sunday.

Englbrecht criticized Israel's official description of migrants as "infiltrators," saying most were refugees or deserved international protection.

Israel's newest detention facility "would appear to operate as a detention center from where there is no release," she said.

Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Saar rejected the allegations, telling Israel Army Radio on Monday the vast majority of migrants had come in search of jobs, not asylum.

"But Israel isn't their home and we will make efforts to ensure it won't become a state of infiltrators," he said.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><h1><h2><h3><h4><h5><h6><blockquote><span><aside>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

^ Back to Top