African migrants meet housing protesters_311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Refugees from Ivory Coast gathered in Tel Aviv Sunday morning to protest their
planned deportation to the war torn African country by the end of
More than 100 refugees – a majority of whom live in south Tel Aviv
near the central bus station – held signs with phrases such as “Deportation
equals death,” and marched in the courtyard outside of the Marc Rich Israel
The Population and Immigration Authority, which had granted
the refugees protection in Israel, has determined that the country, plagued by
violence since a civil war erupted in 2002, is now safe enough for them to
return. The authority had initially ordered that the refugees return to
their homeland by the end of January or face deportation, but refugees filed a
petition with the court seeking an extension of their protection in
A Jerusalem judge approved the authority’s decision earlier this
month and ordered the refugees’ repatriation by May 31. The refugees plan to
file a petition with the Supreme Court on Monday or Tuesday, their attorney
Strife in the country has largely eased since former president
Laurent Gbago was captured by rivals in April 2011 and transferred to the
International Criminal Court where he faces trial for war crimes.
are almost 2,000 Ivory Coast refugees who live in Israel, and those who gathered
at the protest Sunday said they want to return home but first want to ensure the
country is safe and also need additional time to wrap up their lives in
“We need them to consider that we have family and that the
situation in our country is still very bad,” said Toussaint Bouda, a refugee who
has lived in Israel since 2003.
Attorney Tal Proshan said 18 of the
refugees were arrested and set for deportation earlier this year, but that he
was able to secure their release when the petitions were filed with the
Many of the refugees who live in Israel have difficulty finding
employment because their visas declare they are not allowed to work. The Supreme
Court provided the refugees from Ivory Coast and other African nations a legal
loophole granting employers freedom from prosecution for hiring them, but
Proshan said the refugees often have difficulty assuring employers that hiring
them is legal.
“These people want to go back and rebuild their lives, but
they want to wait until it’s totally safe,” Proshan said.