Hundreds of African asylum seekers gathered outside the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Thursday in order to protest the government’s deportation policy, which the court is currently deliberating.
Hundreds of African asylum seekers, mostly Eritreans and Sudanese, demonstrated outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Thursday in protest at the government’s proposed deportation policy.
The court is currently deliberating a petition against the policy, which would expand and formalize the government’s existing practice of deporting asylum seekers to “third countries” — such as Uganda or Rwanda — where they receive no protection, and from where they are often forced to return to their home countries.
In a press release sent out before the demonstration, asylum seekers noted that the prime minister, along with many members of his government, had signaled their intent to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, with thousands having already been removed from Israel.
“The State of Israel has abandoned us,” the statement read. “Our asylum requests are not examined and are rejected outright… The government has also chosen not to grant temporary refugee status to anyone from Eritrea.”
The authors of the statement also said that they had lost contact with many of their friends who had already been deported. They further pointed out that arrivals of asylum seekers into Israel had stopped almost entirely, and that the last group to try and enter Israel through the Sinai had been shot dead by Egyptian security forces.
Several busloads of demonstrators had come from the Holot detention facility in Israel’s south. The protesters — who counted the founder of the Israeli Black Panthers, Reuven Avergel, among them — held placards reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Obey the Refugee Convention” and “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,” quoting the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire.
Israel has incarcerated over 10,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Holot since it opened three years ago. Although they were initially detained indefinitely, a Supreme Court ruling in 2015 reduced the maximum detention period to a year.