Jerusalem, Jan 6: Thousands of African asylum seekers and their supporters in Israel Sunday went on a three-day strike in Tel Aviv’s main square to press for their demand of equal rights.
Chanting “freedom, freedom, not jail,” asylum seekers called on Israel to cease their arrests and instead recognise their asylum requests, Xinhua reported.
Some 50,000 African asylum seekers and refugees live in Israel. Most of them fled Eritrea’s prosecutions and forced military conscription, or clashes in Sudan.
The Israeli government said they infiltrated the country illegally and considers them as a risk for the identity of the Jewish state.
“We are refugees demanding recognition, freedom and human rights. We request that Israel treat us the way a democracy should,” Kidane, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, said.
“Even if we lose our jobs, we will not stop the protest until Israel will stop all arrests and release all refugees,” Mutasim Ali, said an activist and asylum seeker from Sudan’s Darfur.
Ali said that on Monday they planned to march to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ offices in Tel Aviv and to the embassies of the world, in order to encourage them to urge Israel to cancel the so-called anti-infiltration law.
The law, passed by the government Dec 11, allows Israel to arrest asylum seekers for one year in a regular jail, followed by indefinite detention without judicial review in the “open” facility of Holot in the Negev desert. Individuals held in Holot are subjected to roll call three times each day, restricting travel outside of the immediate area. Holot is closed at night.
A few days after Holot was inaugurated, some 200 asylum seekers escaped it and went on a protest march to Jerusalem. They were joined by thousands of asylum seekers from Tel Aviv and other cities, and over the past two weeks they have been holding marches and rallies.