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  • Selective prosecution: In Israel, not all citizens are created equal

    What does it say about a democracy when a law is enforced selectively in order to further a political or personal vendetta against a private citizen? In Israel there is something called the Prevention of Infiltration Law, which prohibits citizens from traveling to a list of so-called "enemy states." The law is little known and almost never enforced. In fact, it is common and widely accepted practice for Israeli businesspeople and journalists with additional citizenship to travel to “enemy” countries using their alternate passports. Some journalists, like Channel 2's Itay Anghel, are famous for having used alternate passports to report…

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  • The origins and politics of Israel's refugee debate

    An in-depth look at the historical and political developments that shaped Israel’s current African asylum-seeker crisis — and one way to resolve it that meets Israel’s own needs while doing right by those who most need its protection. African asylum seekers in Israel have brought their struggle into the limelight in recent weeks. Through acts of civil disobedience, public protests and a mass labor strike, the mostly Eritrean and Sudanese nationals are attempting to shift the public discourse surrounding their presence in the country, gain access to a credible process in which they can seek asylum, and challenge a new…

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  • Day 2 of African asylum seeker protest: What do they want?

    African asylum seekers are holding their second of a three-day national protest. On Monday, thousands of asylum seekers, most of whom are employed by hotels and restaurants, went on strike and held large rallies in front of Western and African embassies. The protesters are calling on the international community to make sure Israel respects its commitments under the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, thus ensuring that the Israeli government ceases rounding up and imprisoning asylum seekers without trial, and that it releases inmates already held under the revised anti-infiltration bill. In a press release sent on Sunday , the protest…

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  • African asylum seekers strike to demand rights, hold unprecedented rally in Tel Aviv

    In an unprecedented protest, some 20,000 African asylum seekers march to Rabin Square to demand that Israel examine their asylum claims and stop arresting and detaining members of the refugee community. Over 20,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea, assembled in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square Sunday morning to demand recognition as refugees. Across Israel, asylum seekers went on a three-day strike, and more protests were planned. In recent weeks, the government stepped up the arrest and imprisonment of African asylum seekers who entered the state without permits. Several months ago, Israel's High Court of Justice struck down a law authorizing the state…

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  • PHOTOS: Thousands of asylum seekers hold 'silent march' on streets of Tel Aviv

    Photos by Activestills, text by Haggai Matar Over 6,000 African asylum seekers and Israeli activists hit the streets of Tel Aviv for a silent march to protest Israel's immigration policies Saturday night. The protesters called for the release of all refugees imprisoned under the revised "anti-Infiltration Law," which permits indefinite detention in an "open" facility, and demanded recognition of their rights as refugees. The demonstrators marched with candles and signs while others brandished the official numbers given to them by the government. One Eritrean asylum seeker was seen walking alongside an Israeli who, as a reserve soldier, caught him at the…

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  • In act of civil disobedience, 150 Sudanese refugees walk out of Israeli 'open prison'

    The 150 men walk six hours through the Negev desert in bid to reach Jerusalem, are currently in Be'er Sheva and rebuffing authorities' offer to bus them back to the 'Holot' open prison facility that opened late last week. Text by Michael Omer-Man Photos by Yotam Ronen, Oren Ziv, Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org Roughly 150 Sudanese asylum seekers left a new 'open prison' and walked six hours to Be'er Sheva in a mass act of civil disobedience protesting their continued detention without trial and demanding recognition as refugees on Sunday. The asylum seekers were transferred to the new facility, “Holot,” in recent…

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  • Allow me to rain on the Prawer parade

    So the Israeli government is scrapping the Prawer Bill. Please allow me to rain on the parade. A few months ago many on the Left celebrated when the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers. This week, circumventing the court's decision, the government passed a new law  allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, only this time in an "open prison." The Bedouin, the Left and the -- not all that large -- protests did not kill the Prawer bill. The Right killed this bill. The current Israeli government did not wake up overnight…

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  • Knesset passes revised law for detention of African asylum seekers

    The previous law was struck down by the High Court, which ordered the state to begin releasing the asylum seekers it was indefinitely detaining. Instead, the Knesset passed a law to circumvent the ruling and indefinitely detain asylum seekers in 'open prisons.' By Elizabeth Tsurkov After a passionate debate and a filibuster by opposition members of Knesset, the new amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law passed 30 to 15 early Tuesday morning. The new amendment, hurriedly drafted and passed by the governing coalition, will replace the 2012 amendment to the law, which was nixed by the High Court of Justice…

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  • A year in review: Anti-African racism and asylum seekers in Israel

    While most Israelis were focused on the latest war on Gaza or the last election, verbal incitement, physical attacks, incarceration without trial and forced deportation of Africans continued unabated. A timeline of Israel's war on African asylum-seekers between November 2012 and May 2013. By David Sheen Last Thursday, May 23, 2013, marked exactly one year to the day when a thousand Jewish Israelis ran rampant through the streets of Tel Aviv, smashing and looting African-operated businesses and physically assaulting any dark-skinned person they came across. Sadly, the Israeli economic, political and religious establishment - who were in large measure responsible for…

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  • Cracks in the detention regime: Refugee advocates see string of court wins

    Although the Israeli government is actively pursuing a detention regime meant to snare as many asylum seekers as possible, some recent legal victories provide a ray of light during an increasingly dark time for asylum seekers and refugees in Israel.  By Noa Yachot and Adi Lerner The last year hasn’t been a good one for refugees and asylum seekers in Israel – or for those advocating on their behalf. Since an amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law was passed in January 2012, almost all change in the field of refugee rights has been for the worse, with the nascent…

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  • Asylum seekers arrested in Tel Aviv raid after authorities announce holiday reprieve

    Immigration authorities announced a halt to arrests during the holidays. But just before the announcement went into effect, and as holiday preparations and celebrations got underway in south Tel Aviv, asylum seekers found themselves under arrest and at risk of deportation. By Rami Gudovitch Friday was a rainy day in Tel Aviv. The head of the immigration authorities, Amnon Ben Ami, had issued a press release promising to cease all arrest operations for the duration of the Christian holidays and New Year’s Eve. The Levinsky Park multi-lingual library, an open library located at the center of the park, was closed…

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  • New law targeting refugees employs logic of human traffickers

    Israel's "Infiltrators' Law" strips the refugee and asylum seeker of liberty, dignity and the right to due process. In producing a form of life that is rendered unworthy of living, the government reformulates the strategies employed by notoriously violent refugee smugglers. By Itamar Mann The amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, passed in the Knesset late Monday night, makes no differentiation between unauthorized migrants pending deportation and asylum seekers: they are all grouped together under the law’s ominous title, and a non-discriminatory policy of detention, potentially for life, is inflicted upon all of them. This far-reaching measure contradicts Israel’s…

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  • Knesset passes bill on prolonged detention of refugees without trial

    Despite loud opposition, the amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, which passed with a large majority, would detain asylum seekers for three years without trial, or indefinitely if they come from "enemy" countries like Sudan By Elizabeth Tsurkov The Knesset passed on Monday night an amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, which metes out harsh punishments on Africans seeking refuge in Israel. The law passed the second and third readings in the plenum with a large majority (37-8) following a boisterous discussion. Under the law, refugees would be held for three years in detention without trial or any…

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