The demonstration was held for residents of countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo and Sierra Leon, in spite of the fact that the United Nations has ruled that the civil war in some of these countries already ended. The protestors were joined by representatives of human rights and refugee organizations operating in Israel.
Shebi Korzen from the foreign workers' service center said that "the people here today at the demonstration are asking for temporary protection and that Israel won't send them back to the countries they came from. It is true that peace treaties have formally been signed there, but according to reports released by human rights organizations, war is still going on in some parts and the citizens there are carrying weapons."
Jerusalem demonstration (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Congo residents have received a temporary visa from the Ministry of Interior, and Israel is expected decide on their fate within six months. Many of the protestors have been living in Israel for years and have gotten used to the country's way of life.
Jerome from Congo explained: "Israel is a democratic country. I have been here for 11 years now with my wife and son. It's not like I arrived a month ago."
"Why isn't Israel welcoming the refugees with open arms like the United States or Canada? Israel has a moral duty to release the refugees and care for them," he charged.
Joze arrived in Israel nine years ago, and has worked as a cleaner ever since.
"The situation in Congo is really bad. Just like in the Holocaust," she said. "There's no food, no hospitals, the people are practically dying there. There's nothing there," she stated.
Joze agreed that Israel "may not be the greatest place to live in, but as a Christian I used to pray for Israel in my own country too."
Jean Claude of Congo claimed that "every democratic country should leave it up to the refugees to decide whether to stay or leave. Even if your country's situation has improved, it does not necessarily mean that the refugee's situation have been resolved. We are still afraid to go back there."
220 Sudanese refugees in prison
Mickey Bavli, the United Nations Refugee Agency's envoy in Israel, described to Ynet the current situation in the countries where the refugees come from. According to Bavli, while the war in Congo continues and the visas of Congolese nationals are extended every six months, the UN informed Israel that the war in Liberia has ended.
"Liberians have been notified they must leave Israel by March 2007. Until their departure they will be offered course aimed at easing their return to their homeland," he explained.
Referring to the situation in Sierra Leon, Bavly said that since according to a UN resolution, the war in the country has come to an end in September 2004, citizens of the state will only be allowed to remain in Israel until February 2006.
Bavly added that Israel has recently rejected the application of 60 Ethiopian refugees seeking a safe haven in the country, and that the UN found no cause to overturn the decision. He added that 220 Sudanese refugees are currently jailed in the country, but stated that the issue was being addressed by a UN delegation from Geneva, who is interviewing each and every one of them.