Some 150 Ivory Coast citizens gathered at the Cinematheque Plaza in Tel Aviv on Sunday to demand an extension of a deadline for their deportation, citing security concerns in their country. "What is happening in the Ivory Coast is out of our control. All we ask is a little more time," they said.
The protesters carried signs that read "Let us leave in dignity and security" and "Eli Yishai, don’t send us off to war." Other signs read: "Deportation of refugees=death" and "You were refugees once too."
The demonstrators also danced to a song they penned especially for the event which calls on the government to give them more time.
Damli Yakoba, who has been living in Israel for the past three years, told his friends: "For several years now we've been living in Israel and no one has given us any trouble. All we ask is more time. Many Jews live in the Ivory Coast. Israel and the Ivory Coast are the same. We don’t cause trouble."
Protest in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Tal Proshan, the attorney representing the protesters, said: "While there has been an improvement in the Ivory Coast's security situation, wars and severe violence are still going on in the country."
He said that last December the government decided to deport the refugees, giving them a January deadline. A subsequent appeal extended the deadline to the end of May. Proshan said they are planning to file another petition with the Supreme Court, signed by 414 asylum seekers.
He noted that the petitioners are willing to leave Israel, but only if they know they are returning to a safe place. "Unlike other refugees, these are citizens protected by a visa. They have been here for years."
One of the protesters, Tusan Boda, said: "We are not fighting the State. We want to leave without causing problems. But the situation in the Ivory Coast is not good and we're asking the government to help us. Israel is a country that's constantly fighting for its survival, it has problems too. All we ask is more time."
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