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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. 

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  • Israel to indefinitely imprison asylum seekers who refuse deportation

    In a move unprecedented in Western countries, Israel's outgoing interior minister announces plan to compel asylum seekers to leave the country. Israel's High Court has repeatedly struck down laws that authorized the indefinite detention of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea will face deportation to third countries or face unlimited imprisonment in Israel under a new Interior Ministry policy set to be implemented in the coming days. Israel will provide asylum seekers 30 days notice, at the end of which, if one refuses to leave, they will face indefinite detention, according to a statement released by the ministry's…

  • How jailed asylum seekers are taking over Israeli Facebook feeds

    As part of a new online campaign Israelis are giving voice to African asylum seekers who have been silenced, locked up and forgotten. By Avi Blecherman If you’re a Hebrew speaker you’re probably asking yourself how your Facebook feed suddenly filled up with quotes from asylum seekers in the “Holot” detention facility. Well, it’s because a new online campaign called "Voices from Holot" launched Sunday, allowing you to to share any number of quotes collected from interviews with asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, all of whom are imprisoned in the “Holot" and “Saharonim” prisons. A number of human rights…

  • Asylum seekers to stay in prison while Israelis hit the polls

    Human rights organizations pledge to challenge the latest iteration of the Prevention of Infiltration Law; new poll gives Livni and Labor a chance; Arab parties agree in principle to a joint list; High Court to hear Zoabi's challenge to Knesset suspension. Before disbanding itself ahead of elections, the Knesset on Monday passed its third try at a law that would keep open Israel’s detention center for African asylum seekers. The High Court of Justice struck down two previous versions of the law as unconstitutional and ordered the Holot open prison closed nearly three months ago. The law's fate fell into the…

  • Israel's 'backyards': First south Tel Aviv, then Holot

    So long as the fight for asylum seekers' rights — which I have taken part in — remains blind to the fact that Mizrahi slums are the only places carrying the burden of supporting and integrating asylum seekers, any celebration of the High Court to shut down Holot is premature. By Shula Keshet (Translated from Hebrew by Michal Wertheimer Shimoni) My neighborhood in south Tel Aviv, Neve Sha'anan, has been given many odd names over the years. Countless times, I’ve been told: “Ah, you live in the central bus station” — and for good reason. After all, two central stations –…

  • WATCH: Listening to the 'Sound of Torture'

    A new Israeli film takes a disturbing look at the torture camps for Eritrean refugees in Sinai, and the Swedish-Eritrean journalist who has devoted herself to exposing the torture victims’ stories and ending their suffering. Related: A life of forced labor: Why Israel's Eritrean refugees fled home Testimony: Sudanese refugee details torture by Sinai smugglers What the bones remember: Israeli doctors talk torture

  • A life of forced labor: Why Israel's Eritrean refugees fled home

    Is Eritrea's brutal dictatorship on the verge of collapse? By Elizabeth Tsurkov Israel is home to about 35,000 Eritrean asylum-seekers. While the Israeli government claims that they are work migrants, so as not to violate its own laws, Israel does not forcibly deport Eritreans back to their country of origin. As long as Eritrea is ruled by the current regime, the millions of Eritreans living outside of their homeland cannot return, but is it possible that the regime in Eritrea will soon collapse? Recent reports from Eritrea and refugees who recently fled the east-African country indicate that the regime is…

  • 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.…

  • 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…

  • 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 —…

  • 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…

  • 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.…

  • 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…

  • 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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+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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