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Refugees hold 'slave auction' outside Knesset to protest deportation

Israel plans to begin deporting tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers within weeks. Activists hope the action will raise awareness of what awaits them.

By Oren Ziv

Eritrean asylum seekers stage a mock slave auction outside the Knesset to protest Israel's plans to deport tens of thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers, January 17, 2018, Jerusalem. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Eritrean asylum seekers stage a mock slave auction outside the Knesset to protest Israel’s plans to deport tens of thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers, January 17, 2018, Jerusalem. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A group of Eritrean asylum seekers and Israeli refugee advocates staged a mock slave auction outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, while a conference on government plans to begin mass deportations of asylum seekers took place inside Wednesday morning.

Around 10 asylum seekers stood on make-shift auction blocks made of milk crates, while an auctioneer called out, “get your slaves, slaves for half price,” over a megaphone. A single member of Knesset, Dov Khenin, came outside to support the asylum seekers, and called Israel’s refugee policy inhumane and unacceptable.

Israeli officials have stated that starting in a matter of weeks, tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel will face a stark choice: indefinite imprisonment or agree to be sent to Rwanda or Uganda. Asylum seekers who have left Israel for the two countries in recent years have not received any legal status there, and faced dangerous conditions and choices, including heading toward Europe through Libya, where human trafficking and other types of violence is a constant danger.

Eritrean asylum seekers stage a mock slave auction outside the Knesset to protest Israel's plans to deport tens of thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers, January 17, 2018, Jerusalem. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Eritrean asylum seekers stage a mock slave auction outside the Knesset to protest Israel’s plans to deport tens of thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers, January 17, 2018, Jerusalem. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Vowing to choose prison over deportation, Awad, one of the Eritrean asylum seekers who took part in the protest action as a would-be slave on the auction block, appealed to Israelis to listen and learn. “Before you deport us let’s sit and talk about our problem. Learn about what the problems are in Eritrea,” said Awad, who asked not to use his last name. “We are refugees, not infiltrators, not work migrants — we are refugees. We will stay here, in prison.”

Human rights and refugee advocacy organizations in Israel and abroad have condemned the Israeli government’s plan and pledged to fight the deportations.

“The asylum seekers that are deported from Israel end up in Libya — end up being sold. This is not just an idea, this is what happens to them actually once they are deported from Israel,” said Sigal Avivi, an Israeli refugee rights activist who helped organize the action outside the Knesset on Wednesday. “Their lives are in danger. We came today to the Knesset to reinforce that message.”

A similar mock slave auction was held outside Tel Aviv’s main shopping mall, Dizengoff Center, a few weeks earlier.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Daniel Pinner

      I am shocked at your blatant racism, +972 magazine. I often read your articles, and have come to expect better from you. Your implication that all sub-Saharan African countries are rife with tyranny, death-penalty, and slavery is the disgusting kind of canard which we would expect from US President Donald Trump. Why oh why does a respectable magazine like you perpetuate these racist Afrophobic stereotypes? Why can’t you allow African countries their basic dignity? For shame!

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        @Pinner: Your kind of callous, cynical, disingenuous game-playing is basically contemptuous of non-Jewish lives (and especially black, non-Jewish lives—a double whammy that is just too much for you, apparently). You would never, ever tolerate it in regards to Jewish lives (especially European Jewish lives). It’s the kind of thing that is standard fare from the Israeli right these days, who have an appalling obtuseness about the sick historical precedent. Your attitude exposes something deep, it exposes what is wrong at the heart of things:

        The Sick Historical Precedent for Israel’s Asylum-seeker Expulsion Push
        Israel’s push to expel 45,000 African asylum seekers and migrants borrows from Eichmann’s 1938 playbook for expelling Austria’s Jews
        read more: https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-the-historical-precedent-for-israel-s-asylum-seeker-expulsion-push-1.5730153

        Reply to Comment
        • Jitkundo

          We are Nazis for expelling illegal migrants to the death camps of Rwanda. Did I get that right?

          You people are so funny when you lose.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Jitkundo

      So let’s see. Some migrants that tried to get to Europe were sold into slavery in Libya. So now deporting illegal migrants with no right to be in Israel to Rwanda or Uganda is selling people into slavery? Could someone do a basic map check here? I mean it seems like you are off by about 5000 km but that’s just me looking at a map. I am sure you guys know better. Or are you just saying that all African countries are the same?

      The illegal migrants will be deported. If you care that much about them go with them and help them settle in.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        So every word of this radiates racist contempt. Contempt for facts. Contempt for (non-Jewish) human beings. Really, you do us a favor. You are a poster child for Israeli racism and for the Israeli habit of thinking that if you repeat a lie long enough and brazenly enough the world will simply tire out and acquiesce. And your obtuseness about how you come across indicates either overweening arrogance or a not too bright grasp on yourself and how you come across. We’ve seen this before. You can’t embarrass an Israeli, said the high placed American intelligence official, after the Israelis simply shrugged off their agent being caught red handed sliding out of the US Vice President’s bathroom air vent. You can’t make this stuff up.

        Bonus article about you by one of Israel’s uncorrupted scholars and truth tellers:

        In Israel, Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism
        https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-in-israel-growing-fascism-and-a-racism-akin-to-early-nazism-1.5746488
        “…Indeed, Smotrich and Zohar don’t wish to physically harm Palestinians, on condition that they don’t rise against their Jewish masters. They only wish to deprive them of their basic human rights, such as self-rule in their own state and freedom from oppression, or equal rights in case the territories are officially annexed to Israel….’

        Reply to Comment
        • JitKunDo

          Maps are racist. Geography is racist. Facts are racist.

          Everything Ben doesn’t like is racist. Everyone Ben doesn’t like is a fascist and/or acts like a Nazi.

          Not racist: Bad things happened to people in Libya. Rwanda is 5,000km away. But they are both in Africa so it is basically the same thing because… RACIST!!! HOW DARE YOU POINT OUT OBVIOUS LOGICAL MISTAKES ANY FOUR YEAR OLD WOULD GET? [And back to some completely unrelated anti-Israeli propaganda.]

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “completely unrelated”

            Obtuseness packed in to two words. I have you pegged. You’ll never admit it, and I never expected you to.

            Reply to Comment

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