Almost all of the refugees are fleeing persecution, in particular from Eritrea. Many are killed as they endure kidnappings, rape and torture, even allegedly being targeted for body parts as they cross Sinai for the relative safety of Israel. On Friday, Eritrean refugees protested, claiming that Israel maintains relations with the extremely repressive regime as an ally and ignores its human rights abuses.
Asked about the South Tel Aviv riots, protesters told Haaretz:
We do not blame the residents of the neighborhoods, but the politicians who come out with untrue allegations that we came here to work. Everyone sees the pictures of torture in Eritrea and the Sinai. Would someone go through this to work in Israel?
One Eritrean said:
Over the last few days, the demonstrations have created a lot of hatred, and when we try to explain that we fled murder and torture no one is interested. We did not believe that things like this could happen in a democracy like Israel.
In an editorial, Haaretz said:
A dangerous campaign of incitement is now underway in Israel. Our elected officials are trying to profit politically out of people’s misery and at the expense of a poor and helpless group. Human rights activists have also become a target. The history of the Jewish people – rife with instances of incitement, persecution and pogroms – does not resonate with the inciters.
The problem of migrants, which impacts many people who live in poor areas and who bear the burden of the government’s failure to deal with the matter, deserves a serious and comprehensive solution. Meanwhile, it is becoming a badge of shame on an entire society.
Israel is building a fence along almost all of its Egyptian border and an enormous camp to house the refugees. They are given temporary residency, though almost none receive actual asylum. They are not supposed to work but the government generally turns a blind eye.
Removals to Sudan and Eritrea, where almost all come from, are not possible and there is no third country offering to take refugees. Arrivals are dropping and according to William Tall, representative in Israel of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a fence, with crossings where officials grant fair hearings to people’s appeals for asylum, and a properly run refugee center may allow a fair and decent solution.
Picture of Israeli anti-racist protest by Sasha Y. Kimel
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