- Posted December 25, 2013 by
Tel Aviv, Israel
March For Freedom
NO MORE PRISON – March For Freedom Tel Aviv
On Dec the 21st in Tel Aviv, a big demonstration took place, calling for the recognition of the rights of close to sixty thousand African refugees whom arrived in Israel between the years 2007 and 2013. The majority of them are from Ethiopia and Sudan, both which are having violent restricted regimes, where people are forced to serve in the army all their lives, under harsh conditions, experiencing torture and slavery. In Israel They serve as labor workers in cleaning, construction, restaurants and agriculture and have no civic rights, as the government of Israel does not recognize their status as asylum seekers and refuges but rather as illegal infiltrators, nor does it issue the Majority with work permits. Officially, refugees from Sudan and Eritrea receive in Israel a permit under a Temporary Group Protection Act. Out of 1,000 requests for a refugee status, less than 1% were recognized. In comparison, in the US, Australia and Europe 20%-40% were recognized. Due to Israeli citizens criticism and political interests, the government made adjustments. It built a fence on the border between Israel and Egypt where the refugees arrive, which indeed reduced the number of refugees from 17,000 entering on 2011 to a few on 2013. Then the law for the prevention of illegal infiltration has passed, rendering these refuges as having no rights what so ever. As many of them arrived in Tel Aviv and inhabit its southern district, a special police force was created, harassing them and arresting them, sending some to the SAHARONIM prison in the southern desert of the country, without the basic right of seeing a judge before. Any cop can arrest them for allegations as not having a receipt for his bicycle or a cellular phone. The jail can populate close to 2,000 people, rendering it as more of a political tool to show concerned Israeli citizens that some measures are made to stop the flaw of these refuges, hoping the word will pass on to other Africans whom wish to arrive and divert them from doing so. Many of these refugees took a long journey by foot, through Africa's Sahara desert and the Sinai Desert, where some were captured, tortured and sold by local Sinai Bedouin clans, charging them huge amounts of money to allow the passage to Israel. Rape of woman and murder for the sake of internal organs trafficking, are part of the dangers as well.
Their settling in the south district in Tel Aviv, where most Israeli population is poor and weak, brought a strong resistance and a wave of racism, induced by right wing politicians, using the situation to gain political power. These neighborhoods have been ignored by the city for years. The civic infrastructure, education system and safety conditions are underdeveloped.
In recent months, the government built another prison HOLOT and declared it as an open Facility. The inmates of that facility have three head counts during the day and has to sleep in it, as its gates are shoot down at night. The facility is surrounded by a desert, making it almost impossible and useless to get out. Yet on December 15th some 200 refugees had left the open facility and marched on the road all the way to Jerusalem, hoping their voice will be heard by the government. They were all arrested in front of the Knesset (House of Representatives) and sent back to prison. A few days later on Dec' the 18th, another march of 150 personal, left HOLOT by foot heading to Jerusalem. They were accompanied by local Israeli activists whom brought them food and warm cloths but Police forces chased them and arrested them using harsh brutality. Some of the refugees fled into the desert on a very cold day but eventually were detained. Israeli Activists are visiting the prison bringing food and warm clothes to the detainees.
Few days later, On December the 21st a large demonstration took place in Tel Aviv, where 2,000 refuges and hundreds of Israeli citizens shared what was called "March For Freedom" passing through the city's main streets. They marched intensely, sometimes running, calling "freedom" and "No More Prison !" making the sign of hands cuffed. Police were puzzled with the civic disobedient and only late at night, once the march had reached the southern district, used force to eliminate the protest.
Activists report that many refugees had started receiving phone calls from the police, pushing them to go back to their African countries. Attempts offering a financial grant in return of leaving Israel were made, but no refugee had agreed, stating that no sum of money can give them any hope and protection from the hardships and danger that awaits them in their original countries. Out of 700 refugees that were returned to Africa last year, 20 have died including children. Many refugees family members, whom stayed behind, are being harassed by their local governments. Another attempt of sending the refugees to a neutral African country failed, as no country actually agreed on receiving them. A new coalition of Eritrean refugees is established throughout the world and in Israel, with the aim of liberating their country from the violent regime.
The latest news is the government's decision to move 10,000 refugees to the HOLOT facility. As refugees throughout the country are approaching renewal of their stay and work permits, which they are required to do every 3 months, they are notified that they need to report to the facility within 30 days. Not doing so will lead to their arrest and forced evacuation from their homes. The facility will have about 2.5 square meters per person. It will have prison guards managing the daily life. Families will have to share one room, and the facility will be closed over night as any a prison.
A governmental report sees HOLOT facility as a temporary and partial solution, as it will be populating 11,000 personal while there are close to 60,000 refugees. The Report sees no apparent solution to the situation.