Demonstrators marched in unison to protest the arrests and deportation of African migrants. The streets of Tel Aviv were occupied by protestors who claim that asylum seekers are being unfairly treated because of the color of their skin.
The demonstration was conceived and carried out by the Bnei Darfur Organization. Marchers made their way to the United Nations Refugees office and handed a written letter to the government. The letter contained a demand for migrant workers to be reclassified as refugees.
The goal of the demonstration was for the UN to step in because of sentiments that Israeli authorities are not doing so. The march is also a call for migrants to be given access to education and health care. They are also asking for all denied asylum claims to be reexamined.
The marchers are made up largely of men, women and children from North Sudan and Darfur. One demonstrator was identified as Andrew Akolawin, who is planning to return to his native country of South Sudan with his children after staying in Israel for five years.
According to Akolawin, the issue is not about being deported back to his country as much as the manner in which the deportation process is being handled. He says that many are being forced out despite being owed unpaid wages and other dues. Like Akolawin, many will be leaving Israel with bitter feelings toward the country.
The protest at Tel Aviv did erupt in violence at one point and resulted in the arrest of 17 demonstrators. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, known for his firm stance against illegal immigration, denounced the violence and referred to those arrested as â€œinfiltrators.â€
According to official records, over 59,000 African immigrants have illegally entered Israel through the border that the country shares with Egypt. Construction is currently underway to build a fence to encompass the perimeter of the border.
A surge in African immigrants has sparked a flurry of backlash from Israelis who feel that the new migrants are not welcome and pose a threat to Jerusalemâ€™s identity. Some Israelis are now taking the law into their own hands and resorting to intimidation and violent attacks.
By law and an international refugee treaty, Israel is required to provide a place of safety for migrants who come to escape oppression and war from their home country.
An estimated 60,000 African migrants, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea, have managed to sneak past Israelâ€™s border that it shares with Egypt. The absence of a fence and border patrol agents has made it easy for refugees to slip through unnoticed.
While Israel is steadily building a fence to seal the 125 mile border, migrants continue to flood the country at a rate of approximately 1,000 every month. Most migrants come with nothing but the clothes on their back. Most report being abused and badly mistreated by the Bedouins who smuggle them.
While African migrants still make up less than one percent of Israelâ€™s total population, some Israelis feel the refugees are harming the countryâ€™s identity as a Jewish state.
Even top Israeli officials have used derogatory terms to describe the migrants, using names such as â€œcancerâ€ and â€œinfiltrators”. Even Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has taken a firm stance against the refugees and said that their increasing numbers can lead to the demise of the Jewish state.
Due to a 1951 U.N. treaty, Israel cannot deport refugees back to their country where their lives may be in jeopardy. Other options are being considered, such as looking for a third country that is willing to give them asylum.
Israel has been slammed by the U.S. State Department for granting asylum to only one of the 4,603 people who applied in 2011. Without legal status, migrants will not be able to work or receive health care.