Israeli police crack down on migrant protest
Israeli security forces broke up protestors outside the country's parliament building Tuesday and have detained nearly 150 African migrants who were in attendance, according to the Associated Press Wednesday.
The protest was part of a two-day march organized by migrants in Israel who have been marching from a detention center in southern Israel to Jerusalem since Sunday to protest Israel's detention policy for illegal immigrants and to expose migrants' plights in the country more generally.
As part of their march, the protestors have also specifically called on the government to end the migrants' detention and grant them refugee recognition.
The Knesset last week amended a law that allows Israel to detain African migrants without trial for a year. Israel also opened a new detention facility in the southern area of Holot last week as well. Over 500 migrants have already been detained in the new facility and under law, they may remain there indefinitely.
Many of the African migrants participating in the protest and in Israel more broadly have left "hardship and danger" in their home countries for a better life. At Tuesday's protest, migrants held signs with slogans such as "refugees, not criminals" and "walk for freedom and humanity."
One demonstrator from Eritrea said, “We come here to ask for protection. We don’t want to go back to our country. Our country is a bad situation ... We need to save our life here.”
Eritrea's government is widely accused of torture, restrictions on freedom of expression and other human rights violations.
However, Israel has refused to recognize African migrants as anything but economic migrants and some critics suggest that the new law is designed to deter them from coming--and staying in the Jewish state--in the first place.
“Just as we are determined to protect our borders, we’re determined to enforce the law,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday. “The infiltrators who were transferred to the special detention facility can either stay there or go back to their home countries.
Israeli police told AP that the detained Africans will likely be sent to detention facilities in the south. Approximately 53,000 African migrants from Sudan and Eritrea reside in Israel, and are often seen by Israeli leadership as a "threat" to the country's "Jewish character."
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