Refugees protest in TA: 'We are not diseased'

Over 1,000 protesters march against racism and gov't decision to set up detention center for migrants; foreign worker aid organizations: Center will be a "ghetto" for African refugees.

December 24, 2010 13:24
2 minute read.
African Refugees

African Refugees 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Over 1,000 people, including Israelis and refugees, marched through Tel Aviv Friday morning in protest of the racism against them and the government's decision to set up a detention center for infiltrators in the south of the country.

The protesters, who demonstrated through Rothschild Boulevard, held signs reading: "Netanyahu is a racist - don't set up the detention center."

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Foreign worker aid organizations opposing the detention facility said it will be a "ghetto" for African refugees, reported Army Radio.

Speaking from a podium at the march, Mubarak, a refugee from Darfur said: "When I was in Sudan, they came to my village, they burned the village and killed people, they raped the women, and took property. My parents told me I should escape, and after a long way, I came to Israel with nothing."

Mubarak added: "I say to the Israeli government - enough! We are fed up with people calling us terrorists, telling us that we are sick and brought with us diseases. We are fed up with people telling us we came here just to work, to take money with us and then go home. It's not true! We thought we came to israel, a democratic country and the only one that can help us and allow us to be here until peace is restored in our countries."

On Tuesday evening, hundreds of residents of Tel Aviv gathered in the south of the city to protest against the illegal refugees under the banner "Enough with fear in the neighborhood, send the infiltrators home."

The protesters, who claimed that they were not against the infiltrators, but in fact against the government, marched from the Kiryat Shalom neighborhood towards the market in the HaTikva neighborhood.

One of the organizers of the demonstration, a member of Tel Aviv's municipality, Shlomo Mitzlawi, said: "We're not racists, we do not hate the infiltrators. The aim of every person is to improve the conditions under which he lives and we understand living conditions in Africa are much more difficult than in Israel, so normal Africans want to emigrate to Israel. "

Last last month, the government approved a plan to construct a detention center to house migrants who illegally cross into Israel from Egypt.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has given his support for the facility. Speaking during a weekly cabinet meeting last month, Netanyahu said "for years, people have spoken about stopping the wave of illegal infiltrators who are entering the country.  There has been talk for years but now we are not talking."

"We do not intend to arrest refugees from war.  We allow them to enter and will continue to do so.  But we must stop the mass entry of illegal infiltrators who are looking for work due to the very harsh repercussions that this wave will have on the character and future of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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