African migrants protest Israeli detentions in long march
(GIN) — In a dramatic protest against their detention, some 200 African migrants crossed 60 miles by foot over two days in winter weather to rally at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. The marchers, many of them asylum seekers from Darfur, Sudan, carried signs that read, “I didn’t choose to be a refugee,” “We are in danger, not dangerous” and “You were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
According to the marchers, their nightly detentions violate a Supreme Court ruling calling for their release from jail. The ruling is the government’s latest attempt to push out an estimated 60,000 Eritreans and Sudanese who have crossed from the Sinai Peninsula into Israel over the past eight years. The new law, which also allows illegal migrants to be jailed without trial for a year, replaces previous legislation that allowed three-year jail terms for such migrants.
A new “open” detention facility in a remote area of southern Israel allows migrants to leave the facility but they must report back three times a day. The old law, struck down in September by Israel’s Supreme Court, was found to have violated constitutional laws protecting human dignity and freedom.
Despite claims for asylum from genocidal or repressive governments, the Israeli government has recognized few of the migrants. According to the Israeli government, the vast majority are just looking for work and plan to stay in Israel permanently. Michal Rozin, chair of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Workers and a champion of migrants’ rights, took the podium at the protest and told the demonstrators: “You are not criminals, your place is not in jail. Good for you for speaking out, the government is not solving this problem.”
The protesters are asking the State of Israel to consider their asylum requests, to grant them protection, and not to detain them again.