Prominent activists from the asylum seeker
community announced Sunday their intention to hold a protest in which demonstrators will stay in shifts in Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv. The protest is to go on "until further notice".
The asylum seekers are protesting against the government's immigration policy that has not changed despite the recent actions of protest that they have taken in the past weeks. "We will stay here as long as needed, night and day. We're not going to give up, we have no other choice because we are fighting for our lives," explained 26-year-old Pilmon, a dominant figure in the community's protest.
Thousands of asylum seekers gathered in Levinsky Park on Saturday for a meeting in which they raised alternative measures for their next steps. One of the suggestions that came up was a march to Jerusalem
and demonstration in front of the Knesset, but according to the asylum seekers, "Jerusalem Municipality's unreasonable demands prevented that."
Asylum seekers' protest in Tel Aviv. Archive photo: Gilad Morag
The asylum seekers continue to demand that the government would cancel the new Infiltration Prevention Law,
examine their asylum requests and cease arresting and detaining members of their community, and grant them welfare and health rights.
"The Israeli government is not doing anything, just making our problems and Israeli residents' problems worse. This battle is exhausting for us. Some of the people are tired, desperate and helpless upon seeing that nothing is changing, but we still have the strength to fight," Pilmon said.
Activists reach out to Holot detainees (Photo: Barel Ephraim)
The activists stated that the protest will continue to be non-violent and that women and children are to participate in future demonstrations.
"While members of the community continue to be arrested and detained in the Holot facility in the Negev for an unlimited time, we will stay in Levinsky Park until further notice in order to express our deep shock from the government's heartlessness, and its shirking of Israel's international commitments," the protestors said.
According to data from the Administration of Population and Immigration, there are 53,000 asylum seekers from Africa living in Israel. The vast majority, some 49,000, are citizens of Sudan and Eritrea, whom Israel
refrain from deporting in accordance with international commitments.
Since the opening of the Holot facility,
500 people from the Saharonim prison were transferred to the site, where they are to stay indefinitely. More than 1,800 other asylum seekers, who live in different city centers, received during the past month summons to report to the site.
According to government statements, thousands more will be summoned in the coming months to the facility, that can now accommodate 3,300 people. The Administration of Population and Immigration arrested over than 150 people whose visas were found to be expired.
They will be transferred to the Saharonim prison to serve a 90-day imprisonment, after which they will be transferred to the Holot facility where they will be detained for an indefinite period of time.
Human rights groups say that while the arrests were carried out, the Administration of Population and Immigration's reception hours were highly sparse.