African migrants at Lewinsky Park in Tel Aviv, January 9, 2014..
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Following a weeklong strike and massive protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the
African migrant strike came to a temporary close on Monday, according to a
statement issued by the Committee of African Asylum Seekers in
“Over the next few days, we decided to go back to our regular
activities. Following the death of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon,
we must show our respect for the Israeli society. This leader of Israel died and
we must respect him by keeping our issue somewhat quiet while the Israeli
people, and the world, mourn his death,” the statement read.
to put the strike on hold was primarily economic, as worker’s feared for their
jobs and their livelihood and also wanted to give the migrant community a chance
to reorganize and figure out the next move in their struggle.
people to go back to work as well because it has been a tough week, not just for
us but also for the employers, and we need our salaries,” an Eritrean activist,
Habton, told The Jerusalem Post.
While the strike, taking place in
Levinsky park, was suspended, Habton said the African community was “continuing
the struggle” through its campaigns to raise awareness, meeting individually
with government officials and assisting members of the African community in
filling out the necessary paperwork to officially file for asylum.
statement called upon the Israeli government to meet three basic
“End the detention policy – cancel the new Prevention of
Infiltration law – end all arrests of asylum seekers and release asylum seekers
“Assess our asylum request in a fair and transparent
manner in a way that meets international standards.
“Respect our human
rights including social services like health and welfare.”
the Interior Ministry there are currently some 53,000 “infiltrators” in Israel,
while only 1,800 have filed for asylum – an indication that the infiltrators are
not true refugees, but rather “economic migrants.”
Sigal Rozen, public
policy coordinator of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, said the reason for
these figures is that the Interior Ministry has not provided a meaningful
opportunity for the migrant community to request asylum.
Rozen, over a year ago the hotline assisted Sudanese migrants in prison
facilities file a total of 320 requests for asylum and has yet to receive a
single response, while every asylum request the hotline assisted in filing for
Eritrean refugees has been rejected by the Interior Ministry.
protests were run by refugees and all the demands were presented by them and
defined by them; but we see how the Interior Minister [Gideon Sa’ar] checks
asylum requests, and I hope their demands will not be in vain,” said
The protests have been able to raise awareness for the African
migrants’ struggle, primarily among employers, who until now had taken the
African workforce for granted. “Thank you to all of the employers who worked so
hard to promote our human rights as refugees over the past two weeks. Many
employers from the hotels, restaurants and other businesses have publicly come
out in support of refugees and have called on the Israeli government to respect
our rights,” the committee statement read.
Though no date has been
officially set, the African migrant community plans to re-launch the protests
later this week with a march of women and children.