African migrants to Netanyahu: You are playing with our lives

"It’s Passover, the festival of freedom – how can you do this?"

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April 4, 2018 00:01
3 minute read.
African migrants to Netanyahu: You are playing with our lives

Jerusalem protest against the deportation of asylum seekers, the sign says "Don't play with human lives - [say] yes to the outlay.'' . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was loud and clear as African migrants, activists and their supporters protested outside his office in the capital following his decision to halt an agreement made with the Officer of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees a day earlier.

“You are playing with our lives – how can you do this to us? Please stop this zig-zag when you make decisions about us,” Eritrean Berhane Negasi, a chef who has been living in Israel for 15 years, said on Tuesday. “Yesterday, we were relieved, we were happy after we heard about the deal the prime minister made.

We weren’t exactly sure what would happen, but we knew it would be better than going to Rwanda or Uganda... Now, we are sad and worried. What’s going to happen? Bibi [Netanyahu] keeps going in a zigzag, he makes a decision and then hours later goes back on it. It’s not fair to us.

“First he’s here, then he’s there. He keeps giving in to the pressure of those who hate us,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

“Not only is he playing with our lives but the lives of the Israeli people as well,” Negasi said. “I escaped being a child soldier in the army in Eritrea, I came here when I was 12 years old... I love this country and I love its people. I want to stay here – my life is here and all of us went through difficult journeys to be here. We want to be accepted.”
Migrants, activists in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv protest Netanyahu's scrapping of relocation deal, April 3, 2018 (Reuters/Tamara Zieve)

Holding placards and signs and waving Israeli flags, some 100 people lined the street next to the Prime Minister’s Office and called on Netanyahu to return to the deal he promised on Monday.

“Listen to your people [Israeli citizens], go back to what you agreed to,” one activist told the crowd. “Help the people [migrants] of south Tel Aviv. Don’t make them go to places where their lives are endangered. We hope you will hear us. We ask you to hear us and to return to what you promised yesterday.”

On some of the placards were slogans such as: “Stop the deportation,” “Don’t play with our lives, we are human beings,” and “Human beings: Treat us with dignity.”

Another Eritrean migrant, who only identified himself as Filimon, said he was devastated about Netanyahu’s retraction of the agreement. “It was all so sudden. On Sunday we thought we’re all going to Rwanda, then suddenly Bibi said we could stay or go to Western countries – a good agreement – and now he’s given in to those who opposed it. What happens to us now?” he asked. “He must go back to what he said yesterday, to the deal he made – that’s all we want. People’s lives are on the line here. Please treat us like human beings.”

Both Negasi and Filimon, who live in Jerusalem, said that they love Israel and the people of Israel. “You are good [people] and you are kind and we just want to give to the country, we want to live and be treated like human beings. We want to help, we want to be a part of society and do our duties,” they said.

Several representatives from the Stop the Deportation group told the Post: “It’s Passover, the festival that represents our freedom as a nation. We have gone through exile after exile to finally establish the State of Israel, we too were once refugees – this is a time of freedom and redemption – how can he do this during this time that is supposed to represent freedom and democracy? “It’s wrong, it’s unfair and this zig-zag must end, we will not give up and we will not give into this zig-zag. It’s time the people of south Tel Aviv be absorbed into the country and treated properly,” they said.


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