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  • Israel’s ultimatum to refugees: Indefinite detention or danger

    An Israeli court upholds the government’s policy of indefinitely imprisoning African asylum if they don’t agree to ‘voluntary deportation’ to third countries with no legal status. The xenophobia driving Israel's policy is top-down, but there is another way. By Anat Ovadia-Rosner The Be’er Sheva District Court rejected a petition filed by human rights organizations earlier this month, thereby green lighting the indefinite imprisonment of asylum seekers unless they agree to leave Israel for a third country. The term “voluntary deportation” has always described a dubious state of affairs: people who risked their lives to get to Israel, whom the state…

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  • The 'lynching' of Habtom Zarhum: A history of incitement

    Activists, asylum seekers and refugee advocates in Israel are pointing to the incitement directed toward African asylum seekers — by politicians, state institutions and the media — as necessary context for the vigilante mob and shooting that killed an Eritrean asylum seeker. An Eritrean asylum seeker was mistaken for a Palestinian during a shooting attack at the Be’er Sheva bus station Sunday night. Habtom Zarhum, 29, was shot by a security guard who thought he was a terrorist and then – as the asylum seeker lay bleeding on the ground – civilians kicked him, cursed and spat on him. A bystander…

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  • A place of dignity for refugees in Berlin

    An outpouring of hospitality is on full display at a shelter in the German capital, where volunteers insist on treating refugees as people, not just victims. But as the gifts pour in, how deep is the well of kindness — and what is brewing under the surface? BERLIN — A few young teenage Arab boys line up loosely, side by side, in a concrete courtyard. They are concentrating hard on four big guys dressed in black, who are busting hip-hop moves to music blaring from an amplifier. The boys bounce a little with the beat, then follow after the big…

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  • Searching for a way into Europe: A photo dispatch from Hungary

    One by one, day by day, Europe is closing its gates to refugees desperately searching for a way in. Confused, exhausted and frightened, at times they don’t even know what country they are in. Two Activestills photographers follow refugees as they make their way toward Germany. Photos and text by Keren Manor & Mareike Lauken / The train rolls to a stop at a small town on the Hungarian border town, Hegyeshalom. Some 1,500 refugees, the vast majority of them from Syria and Afghanistan, descend and start marching along the tracks in silence. Outside the train station and alongside the…

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  • Four simple things Israel can do to help refugees

    There's no reason contributing solutions needs to be scary. Here are four viable steps Israel can take that will actually help the various refugee populations in its midst. Israeli politicians and prominent figures in the local media have begun paying attention to the refugee crisis playing out in Europe in recent days. Well, actually, that’s a misnomer. Europe is starting to pay attention to the Syrian refugee crisis because massive numbers of Syrian refugees are now arriving on its shores and borders. In recent days, one set of prominent figures has called on the Israeli government to start absorbing in…

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  • In English Bibi calls Syrians migrants, in Hebrew they're 'infiltrators'

    Netanyahu's message is clear: in Hebrew there is no such thing as a Syrian refugee who might find shelter in Israel; instead, there are infiltrators and terrorists. Israeli officials are rather fond of pointing out the different messages Palestinian and Arab leaders put out in Arabic and English. It turns out Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t much better. Netanyahu responded Sunday morning to a call by opposition leader Isaac Herzog, in light of the refugee crisis in Europe, for Israel to open its border with Syria to refugees fleeing ISIS and the civil war there. [tmwinpost] Explaining why he will…

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  • Asylum seekers say Israeli authorities use food to pressure them

    A new report by a refugee organization says the food Israeli prison authorities provide to African asylum seekers being detained in Holot does not meet their nutritional needs. During the Ramadan fast, the many restrictions on food in the 'open' facility make life even tougher on Muslim asylum seekers from Darfur. Some detainees say the hardships are intentional, part of a wider policy aimed at pressuring them to leave Israel. By Oren Ziv / Just before eight at night, as dinner is being served inside the prison, hundreds of asylum seekers being held in Israel’s Holot "open" detention facility…

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  • A year since protests, detained asylum seekers hint at new strategy

    When I meet Jack outside the “Holot” desert detention facility in southern Israel, currently home to some 1,900 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, the first thing he wanted to tell me is what bothers him about the Israelis that come to visit him and his friends. “Not many people come to visit us at Holot. The few that do come — they help us, and that’s great. But that is not going to change our situation here in Israel. We expect every Israeli to try and affect change through the political system — specifically, the government’s policy toward us, the…

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  • Asylum seeker who left Israel: 'I believed them when they said I could stay in Uganda'

    The following is a redacted version of an affidavit that was attached to a petition filed by Israeli human rights NGOs and the Tel Aviv University Refugee Rights' Clinic against the recently announced policy of indefinitely incarcerating Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who refuse to leave Israel for Rwanda or Uganda. Under a new policy announced on March 31, 2015, asylum-seekers detained in Holot will be offered to leave Israel for an unnamed third country. If they refuse to do so, after 30 days, they would be incarcerated in Saharonim prison. Dozens of Eritrean asylum-seekers in Holot have since undergone interviews in…

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  • PHOTOS: Hundreds protest deportation of asylum seekers in Tel Aviv

    The Israeli government announced plans to offer asylum seekers a stark choice: self-deport to a third country or face indefinite imprisonment. Residents of south Tel Aviv, where many asylum seekers live, stage a counter-protest. By Oren Ziv/ Some 300 Israeli activists staged a protest against the Israeli government’s stated future policy of deporting asylum seekers back to Africa Saturday night in central Tel Aviv’s Habima Square. Around 100 residents of Tel Aviv’s southern neighborhoods, where many asylum seekers live, staged a counter-protest. Click for +972's full coverage of asylum seekers in Israel Refugee activists shouted, "no to deportation," and called…

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  • Uganda denies agreement with Israel on asylum seekers

    The Ugandan government officially denies claims it has signed an agreement with Israel, whereby it would absorb forcefully deported Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. The Israeli government has resisted calls to divulge the details of the agreements it had allegedly signed with 'third countries.' Government officials in Uganda deny there is any agreement with Israel on the deportation of asylum seekers into the country, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, citing Ugandan daily New Vision. In the report, published Tuesday, Uganda's Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs James Mugume is quoted as saying: "Neither the minister [of internal affairs] nor…

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  • Likud minister: Drowning of migrants justifies Israeli policy

    Just one day after 950 asylum seekers drown on their way to Italy, Israel's transportation minister praises the government for preventing migrants from entering the country. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) sees lessons for Israeli policy in the tragic massacre of 700 asylum seekers who drowned when their vessel capsized on Sunday in the Mediterranean Sea. Posting a photo showing rows of corpses brought to shore by rescue workers, Katz wrote the following caption, which is translated here from Hebrew: "Hundreds of migrants from Africa drowned to death close to Italy in a disaster that horrified all human beings. Europe is…

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