African migrants vow to continue strike

Asylum seekers say they have nothing to lose; nationwide strike to be extended until Israeli gov't meets demands of protesters, say migrants.

African migrant rally for asylum in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
African migrant rally for asylum in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
African migrants on Tuesday promised to stay away from work until the government meets their demands over its policy toward asylum-seekers, on the third day of a nationwide strike.
The decision was announced at a press conference held near the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station in the mid-afternoon.
Hours earlier, thousands of Africans gathered in the nearby Lewinsky Park, where a series of speakers took to the stage to brainstorm how to take the protest forward and keep up the momentum of the past few days.
An asylum-seeker from Darfur named Jacky held up a picture of an Eritrean baby whom an Israeli man stabbed on Friday night, and said, “She is all of ours’ [sic] child, she is the child of all of Africa.
“We do not want to kill any Israeli, but we will protect ourselves and we will die for this,” Jacky said.
At the rally, protesters announced that they planned to march to Jerusalem, and if not given a permit to march, they would camp out in Lewinsky indefinitely.
As night fell, it was announced that they had not received a permit to hold a protest from police.
Contacted by phone, Jacky said protest leaders had decided to send a few hundred asylum-seekers to Jerusalem by bus on Wednesday morning, where they would hand a letter with their demands to MKs outside the Knesset. Their demands include an end to the jailing of illegal migrants and for Israel to check all requests for asylum.
Tuesday’s demonstration came a day after several thousands migrants protested outside foreign embassies and the UN’s High Commission for Refugees headquarters in Tel Aviv, demanding their intervention, and two days after a rally brought more than 15,000 migrants to the city’s Rabin Square.
Eritrean Emmanuel Yamane told reporters at Tuesday’s press conference that the situation for migrants has become significantly worse of late, as the government has stopped renewing visas and has stepped up the arrests of asylum- seekers.
“The government is pushing us and making us crazy and not looking at us like human beings. They believe if it gets harder and harder for us, we will go back willingly.
The government of Israel wants the people to be afraid of us and not see us as human beings, but we tell you, don’t fear us,” Yamane said.
“We are sick of the incitement against us by the government, the ministers – we feel it in the streets, the bus, the neighborhoods,” he said.
Asylum-seeker Haidar Hassan Didan told the press, “We are asking that the State of Israel treat us humanely, and [we] will present our requests to the UN. Israel isn’t alone in this matter; there are many places in the world and many other refugees in the world.”
Mutasim Ali, an asylum- seeker from Darfur, said the protest movement was inspired by the detainees who marched from the Holot open detention facility in the Negev to Jerusalem last month, and that Israelis “need to understand that we have nothing left to lose; Israel’s choice gives us the answer that there is no other choice.
They give us a terrible choice: go to prison or go home.”
The words of protest came after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said the demonstrations and strikes would not stop the government from carrying out its immigration policies.
The Prisons Service confirmed that 130 detainees at the Saharonim detention in the Negev had been on a hunger strike for the past two days.
The service said that as of Monday night, the detainees were sending back their meals, adding that according to protocol it is only a hunger strike after someone sends back six meals.