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African asylum seekers to strike in protest of Israeli immigration policies

In protest of new law authorizing indefinite detention and a wave of roundups in south Tel Aviv, asylum seekers declare general strike and three days of protests.

Thousands of African asylum seekers meet in south Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park to plan a three-day general strike protesting Israel’s immigration policies and asylum regime, January 4, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Thousands of African asylum seekers met in a south Tel Aviv park Saturday night to plan a three-day general strike protesting Israel’s asylum and immigration policies.

Their central demands are an end to the practice of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers and that Israel individually examine their requests for asylum and refugee status.

Read: Asylum seekers claim a place on the Israeli political map

Currently Israel does not examine the asylum claims of Sudanese and Eritreans in the country – either individually or otherwise. Those two groups are given papers that prevent their deportation but do not allow them to work or otherwise sustain themselves.

The strike, which was set to begin Sunday morning, will involve protest marches, demonstrations in front of various foreign embassies and protests in central Tel Aviv.

Restaurants, bars and cafes in Tel Aviv generally employ Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers as dishwashers and kitchen staff. Because they have no work permits, they are often paid less than minimum wage and face labor exploitation in various ways.

Read +972′s full coverage of refugees in Israel

At least one restaurant in Tel Aviv, whose dishwashers and kitchen staff are Eritrean, announced that it will not open its doors Sunday morning and encouraged its employees to join the protest march.

The strike comes just weeks after a new law came into effect that authorizes the indefinite detention of asylum seekers in an ‘open prison’ facility. Israel’s High Court struck down a previous version of the law as unconstitutional.

Within days of arriving, the first group of asylum seekers brought to the new ‘open prison’ facility carried out a series of mass acts of civil disobedience.

One group marched two days to snowy Jerusalem before being arrested en masse outside the Knesset. A second group was arrested while marching through the desert. In the days after, a number of protests took place in Tel Aviv.

In the weeks since, immigration authorities have been conducting random arrest sweeps of asylum seekers without valid documents in south Tel Aviv. Those with valid “conditional release” visas are being issued orders to appear at the new ‘open prison’ facility when trying to renew their visas at the Interior Ministry.

Turning Israel into a ‘state of all its infiltrators’
Asylum seekers claim their place on the Israeli political map 

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    1. Rehmat

      For Israel, African asylum seekers have always been a PR. Once the intended purpose is done – they’ve always become a problem.

      On December 28, 2013, the UK daily The Gurdian published an article written by Daniel Howden, the first western jounalist to visit South Sudan. He blamed the South Sudanese and westerners for being foold by pro-Israel Hollywood stars like George Clooney, Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle.


      Reply to Comment
      • Hi Rehmat. I don’t think we are on the “same side” in some ways, but I don’t think you are helping your cause by positing a calculating Israel which has dropped the asylum refugees once no longer useful. There is a constitutional crisis playing out which may begin a slow change in Israeli law. Israel is not just one calculating entity all the time. Israelis differ amongst themselves. I understand a bit Palestinian subjugation, but not all events are do to a single evil actor.

        Reply to Comment
    2. RK

      Has got to be most important political development in years or even decades in the area. A lesson in mass political action for Israeli, Palestinian and other working people there and everywhere.

      Reply to Comment
    3. “Their central demands are an end to the practice of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers and that Israel individually examine their requests for asylum and refugee status.”

      These are hardly demands but legal requirements, assuming, as I think will be the case, that the High Court voids the second detention law as well.

      I agree with RK, above, that this is a remarkable development both in political action and law (and it is very satisfying to see the two areas so intimately linked). Brought on, I would add, by the Knesset’s repeated failure to respect the proper role of the High Court. No utopia portends, but I remain hopeful of improvement which can latter yield yet more.

      Yet a third time, these refugees have refused to kowtow to State action designed to force them mutely out. May the strikers understand that violence to person or property will only hurt a cause which has much to recommend itself in law.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      Now not only did they break the law by infiltrating the country but now they are flaunting the illegal work they do despite having no permission to work in Israel.

      Any business owner that employs them should be immediately heavily fined. No, forget that. Any business owner that employs them should be both fined and imprisoned. Every person at that demonstration should have their papers checked and if found to be in the country illegally sent immediately to Saharonim.

      That people with no legal claim to be in Tel Aviv should be marching to demand rights they have no claim to is a travesty. Nor do they have any right to try to use the means of political influence reserved for citizens.

      Reply to Comment
      • anon

        EVERY human being has the right to a home. None of these people broke a law – they’re trying to survive. Clearly you come from a place of privilege. Your elitist perspectives may succeed in keeping these out, but karma means you get to die a painful death of cancer. There is a way for the system to come up with win-win solutions without heavily taxing Tel Aviv resources. There is plenty for all & these people will work and contribute to productivity and wealth. Enjoy cancer coz that’s what awaits elitist nazis like you.

        Reply to Comment
        • Adam Dayton

          Everyone human being has a right to a home, but apparently human beings do not have the right to democratically determine how their tax dollars are spent. Elitist? You are the one preaching things that directly contradict the democratic will of the Israeli people. If anyone is elitist, it’s you, disregarding the will of the common man to impose your own sense of morality on them.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Mordechai ben Yosef

      Adam, I can’t stand these elitists either, like the ones who challenged the democratic will of the German people in the 1930’s-40’s or those Americans who challenged the democratic(D&d) will of the people in the Southern U.S in the 30’s-60’s. Unfortunately democracy has established a crucial place for these “elitists.” Individual and human rights are to be protected even when the will of the people wishes otherwise. Dammit!

      Reply to Comment