Some 300 African asylum seekers held a protest march against government policy and violence directed against them by Tel Aviv residents on Sunday.
The protesters marched from Tel Aviv's Levinsky Park to the UN mission in Ha'hashmonaim Street carrying signs which read "Don't forget history. Being a refugee is not a choice" "A refugee is not cancer, he's a person who escaped persecution and is entitled to protection" and "We don't want group protection, we want refugee status."
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The protesters are seeking greater UN involvement in their campaign for refugee status. Several argued that the UN's Refugee Agency must see to it that should they be deported from Israel, it would be to a democratic state.
"We have come to tell the lovely people of Tel Aviv that we are sorry for any girl who got raped and are asking you to treat us as individuals, not a collective. Those who committed a crime are not the majority."
Seeking UN involvement (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Israel's Population and Immigration Authority recently announced that South Sudanese migrants have a week to leave the country voluntarily, but on Sunday – just three days after the announcement – eight migrants from the new African country were detained.
"You will be hard to come by South Sudanese here," of the organizers of the protest told Ynet. "Even if they are here, I won't tell you where they are. They've already started catching them, and when they're done – we're next."
'Let me leave Israel'
The protest was also attended by members of the Sister Movement for Women in Israel, including director Shula Keshet. "We are a group of south Tel Aviv residents who have come to support (the refugees) and declare we do not accept the incitement against asylum seekers," she said.
Protesters want to be treated as individuals (Photo: Ofer Amram)
"Someone up high is trying to exploit the crisis in the area to divide and rule. We won't allow this policy to continue. We want equality among us."
One of the asylum seekers at the protest said that his passport was taken away by authorities three months ago and was never returned despite his pleas. He recently lost his job after his employer told him "it was not a good time" to employ migrants.
"I want to get out of here," he said. "Open the door for us and we'll leave, but don't incite against us. I am asking for my passport because I feel it is dangerous here. I want to move to Egypt because I cannot return to north Sudan. Israel was a good place but it no longer is."
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