In the past four days, thousands of African migrants are striking and protesting in the streets of Tel-Aviv. Many of them work illegally as dishwashers or janitors, and them striking directly affects many businesses and thus – draw a lot of attention. So far, protests involving those migrants from Eritrea and Sudan were when Israelis from southern Tel-Aviv called to send them back to their countries after the crime rate has raised because of their “unwanted” presence. Now, they are taking the stage, full throttle, and calling the government to reassess their asylum requests and put an end to their “undecided” status.
Some of them are actually asylum seekers, some are just job seekers, looking for a better life here, and it’s hard to tell them apart. According to the international law, Israel is not obligated to grant them citizenship. According to the unofficial rules of human behavior – Israel should grant them an Israeli citizenship and save them from a life of misery in Africa. The Israeli government can choose either option and handle the consequences. In Europe, several countries have recently decided to reject those immigrants and even in the US not every request for citizenship is accepted. The problem with Israel is that no actual decision has been made on this issue.
Due to a UN treaty Israeli is a part of, it cannot deport 49,000 of the 53,000 asylum seekers. However, our government can remove itself from this treaty at any time. This results in some of them being held in prison-like facilities, some work illegally and many roam the streets and turning to crime. According to reports in Israeli media, 1,600 asylum requests were filed, of which 1400 remained unanswered.
Now, the pressure is on. The African immigrants decided to put an end to their “undecided” status, and take the streets. The usually silent workers we smile to at work, at our coffee shop or at the gym are shouting for someone to hear them out. As for us? From the left – people are calling for our government to show some humanitarian behavior and give them a chance for a proper life. From the right – people are “reminding” our government that Israel is the land of the Jews and asking to not let immigrants take over the job market. In a meantime, our government is stalling, unwilling to swing in either direction. It is a very difficult call to make. It is not their legal duty to accept all asylum seekers, but it is their moral call.
Many of those opposing their acceptance pointed out other places in the world, where those immigrants are being rejected or treated much worse than they are being treated here. One can wonder about the differences between Europe and Israel, and demand to know why are we being criticized so harshly for our immigrants’ situation.
The answer lies in our origins. At times like this, we must remember the foundations on which Israel was founded. The horrors from which our grandparents escaped and the decision to put an end to hundreds of years of being persecuted. This is something our government must remember when approaching the immigrant issue seriously and this time – reaching an actual decision.