October 14, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Around 300 Sudanese asylum seekers demonstrated in Israel on Sunday against government plans to incarcerate them, demanding recognition of their status as refugees in need of protection.
- One of the organizers of Sunday’s protest against the government’s plan to detain Afrcian migrants in an encampment in the Negev (Photo by Daniel Bar-On)
The protesters gathered outside government headquarters in the capital Tel Aviv chanting slogans saying “we are refugees, not infiltrators” and holding signs reading “we are not criminals, why are we being put in jail”, several news sources reported.
The protest comes in response to plans by Israeli’s Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, to imprison and expel some 15,000 asylum seekers from Sudan as of mid-October.
The minister is known for his hard-line position on the issue of African migrants in Israel. In May, he started a repatriation plan that saw 2,000 South Sudanese refugees being sent back to South Sudan.
"We want Israelis to know that the Sudanese are not coming here for work. We are refugees," one of the protesters from the western region of Darfur was quoted as saying by Israeli newspaper Haartez.
The demonstrators called on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) to intervene in the matter and demanded recognition of their status as refugees who need protection. Some protesters carried signs reading "We came to ask for protection, not to look for work" and "We did not chose to be refugees - Israel and the UN have failed to protect us".
According to official estimates, some 60,000 African asylum seekers live in Israel, many from South Sudan and Eritrea.
Yishai’s plans to imprison Sudanese refugees might not be carried out as soon as he hoped because a local court imposed an injunction against the project on Thursday after accepting a petition from human rights groups against the plan.