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Seeking Asylum in Israel

The number of African asylum seekers in Israel has grown substantially in recent years, now standing at roughly 60,000, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan. Israel has agreed to refrain from deporting nationals from those countries due to the risk they would face, but is pursuing a string of restrictive measures to stem the tide of arrivals. In May of last year, a nighttime mob attack took place against African migrants and their properties in south Tel Aviv, fueled by the state’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. +972 has tracked the unfolding developments and challenges faced by a status-less community under increasing pressure. 

  • PHOTOS: Protesters compare High Court to ISIS at anti-refugee rally

    Far-right protest against High Court decision to close Holot detention center greeted by flower-bearing asylum seekers. Around 100 people, including far-right activists and residents of south Tel Aviv, protested Sunday night against asylum seekers and against the High Court decision to close the Holot detention center within 90 days. Some protesters, among them former extremist Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari and radical anti-miscegenation group Lehava's chairman Benzi Gupstein, waved black flags that said "High Court" on them, drawing the comparison between Israel's highest legal body and the Islamic State, or ISIS. Protestors marched to Levinsky Park, where several refugees awaited them with flowers in hand.…

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  • A couple of Netanyahu's not-so-white lies to Americans

    In the past week or so, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated a couple of talking points that diverged from the truth, but few people called him out on it. 1. In a meeting with the Jewish Federations of North America in New York last Tuesday,  the prime minister fielded a question regarding the state's practice of sending asylum seekers to detention facilities in the desert, sometimes for unlimited periods of time. This has been the first time the prime minister commented since a recent ruling by the High Court that ordered the detainees to be released. "There is no asylum…

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  • Israel's High Court orders closure of 'Holot' refugee detention facility

    Asylum seekers imprisoned in Holot celebrate the ruling but warn that it's not clear what will happen next. Israel’s High Court of Justice on Monday struck down key parts of a law that allows the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers in Israel's ‘Holot’ detention facility, also striking down a section that permits the automatic year-long detention of newcomers. The court ordered the state to shutter Holot within 90 days. Almost exactly a year ago, the court struck down a previous version of the law that authorized the detention of asylum seekers, prompting lawmakers to quickly draft a replacement —…

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  • High Court to rule on indefinite detention of African asylum seekers

    The amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law permits the state to indefinitely detain African asylum seekers whom it cannot deport. A previous version of the law was struck down. Israel’s High Court of Justice was expected to decide whether to uphold or strike down key parts of a law that allows the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers in its ‘Holot’ detention facility. The court struck down a previous version of the law, prompting lawmakers to quickly draft a replacement — one that introduced even more severe problems. A key intention and consequence of the new law that the…

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  • Resource: Coercing African asylum seekers to go home

    Israeli authorities have unlawfully coerced almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals into returning to their home countries where they risk serious abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released in September 2014. Some returning Sudanese have faced torture, arbitrary detention, and treason charges in Sudan for setting foot in Israel, while returning Eritreans also face a serious risk of abuse. The 83-page report, “‘Make Their Lives Miserable’: Israel’s Coercion of Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum Seekers to Leave Israel,” documents how Israel’s convoluted legal rules thwart Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers’ attempts to secure protection under Israeli and international law.…

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  • Marching toward freedom in a fictional plot of land

    Nearly 1,000 African asylum seekers walked out of Israel's 'open' detention facility last week, saying they were headed to a strip of UN-controlled territory along the Egyptian border. This is the story of their march -- full of hopes, determination and desperation. Encampment air hangs hot and still. Under a dry canopy of Eucalyptus it swaddles the crowds of Sudnese and Eritrean asylum seekers who make temporary beds here, some 300 meters from the Israeli-Egyptian border. Hassan Abdaiiah Adam, a 30-year-old asylum seeker from Darfur, passes thick fingers over the yellow whistle that he wears around his neck. He has…

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  • PHOTOS: Asylum seekers march out of 'open prison,' demand resettlement

    Around 1,000 asylum seekers walk out of the Holot open detention facility but are stopped short of the Egyptian border, announce they will no longer seek acceptance by the Israeli government and demand that the United Nations take responsibility for them and resettle them in third countries. Text by Michael Omer-Man Photos by Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org   Update (Sunday 8:30 p.m.): Police arrested the asylum seekers and loaded them onto buses. For more information and photos, click here. Update (Sunday 7 p.m.): Police told asylum seekers that they have 15 minutes to get onto buses back to…

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  • PHOTOS: French authorities threaten to destroy migrant camps

    Migrants in Calais, France occupy a food distribution center to protest Paris’s threat to evict them from their camps. Groups of migrants set up camps on the coast in hopes of sneaking across the channel to the UK. By Anne Paq/Activestills.org Despite rainy weather, hundreds of migrants occupied a food distribution center in the French city of Calais Monday night in order to protest against the imminent eviction of their camps. The evictions of three main camps that shelter over 600 migrants in the city, are expected to take place in the next days according to French authorities. A social…

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  • WATCH: Confronting an Israeli minister for flouting int'l law

    Sadiq al-Sadiq was returned to Israel earlier this month after finding himself being sent -- against his will -- back to Sudan, from where he fled persecution and genocide. Sadiq is just one of hundreds or thousands of Sudanese who have been pressured to leave Israel. Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is responsible for the asylum seeker population in Israel, has made it clear that he intends to empty the country of African asylum seekers. "If we treat this [problem] like liberals, we'll lose the country," he has said in the past. Earlier this month, one Israeli activist confronted Sa'ar…

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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Illustrations: Eran Mendel