Eritrean demonstrator at rally 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Several hundred Eritrean asylum- seekers demonstrated outside the US Embassy in
Tel Aviv on Friday, asking Washington to intervene to ease the problems they
face in Israel.
Carrying signs saying “No deportations of asylum-seekers”
and “We need protection,” among others, the protesters said only Washington had
the clout and was close enough to Israel to encourage it to accept their asylum
claims and ensure their protection from violence and racism in
Waving an American flag on the beachfront promenade across the
street from the embassy, Eritrean activist Haile Mengistab told The Jerusalem
that “the American government can put pressure on the Israeli government,
which has stigmatized the entire Eritrean population [in
Referencing anti-migrant statements made recently by Knesset
MKs, Mengistab said, “We are not cancers, we are not a national plague, we are
not infected with AIDS. We want the American ambassador to help us, because they
[the US] are a strong nation and they and Israel are like mother and son. They
can convince the Israeli government to be hospitable to the Eritreans and give
“We’re not here to demolish Israel’s Jewish character,” he
Eritreans make an estimated 40,000 of the more than 60,000
Africans migrants in Israel illegally. Israel cannot legally deport them to
their country, because it is likely that they would face
Eritrea has been ruled by a dictatorship since it gained
independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
Nonetheless, tension has gripped the
Eritrean community in recent months, because of the escalating antimigrant
rhetoric from Israeli politicians, violence directed at Africans, and recent
vows by Interior Minister Eli Yishai to explore ways to deport all African
migrants, including the Eritreans. Such vows come against the backdrop of the
ongoing deportation of Israel’s South Sudanese and Ivorian communities, which
have 700-1,500 and 500- 1,500-members, respectively.
24, said the demonstrators came to the embassy because “America is the strongest
and most well-known country in world that has the power and a voice that can be
heard in all of the world.”
Tumughi spoke of how the US took in Eritrean
refugees during the war with Ethiopia and said it could help broker an agreement
to find a third country that could absorb some of Israel’s migrant
He also spoke of recent violence against Africans in Israel,
and said it no longer felt safe in the country, and that he and others were no
longer confident Israel would listen to their pleas.
“Israelis can help
us too, but they have shut their eyes and ears to us,” he said.