Jewish Journal

African Refugees and Asylum Seekers March to the UN Refugee Agency

by Jeremy Elster

January 13, 2014 | 9:46 am

Screen shot of video

There are approximately 53,000 African Refugees and Asylum Seekers currently residing in Israel, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea. Because Israel did not want to accept the refugees while also recognizing the danger (in terms of human life and also International Law) of returning the them to their home countries, the State issued “conditional release visas” to the asylum seekers. The conditional release visa allows them to stay in the country but prohibits the refugees from obtaining work visas, health insurance, or other state benefits. At the close of 2013, on Human Rights Day no less, the Israeli Knesset amended the Anti-Infiltration law to allow for indefinite detention of asylum seekers in an “open” internment camp at Holot in the Negev. I say “open” because the asylum seekers are required to check in three times per day so that they cannot go out to work or travel.

In response, the African Refugees and Asylum seekers began organizing their community with the demand that the Israeli State begin processing their asylum requests as well as for basic human rights. From December 5th to 28th, there were two “Freedom Marches” from the Holot facility to the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem as well as two rallies in Tel Aviv, the second of which was attended by 6000 refugees. On January 5th, their community called for a three day general strike (which was later extended) protesting the government policies. On Sunday January 5th, 30,000 African Refugees and Asylum seekers held a silent protest in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. The number represented 60% of the entire refugee population in Israel! The following day, they marched on foreign embassies and the United Nations Refugee Agency headquarters asking for help. Israel Social TV joined the marches and invites you to join as well. Click the video to see the march and interviews with the organizers. For more information about how to get involved from Los Angeles, add your name to Right Now’s Petition to the Israeli Government: Uphold the Rights of the Asylum Seekers.

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Jeremy Elster is a Southern Californian native and New Israel Fund/SHATIL Social Justice Fellow working as the International Communications Coordinator for Israel Social TV...

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