Thousands of African migrants protest Israel detention policy

by Reuters
Monday, 6 January 2014 13:04 GMT

African migrants protest in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv against Israel's slow processing of asylum requests and the arrests of hundreds under a new Israeli law which entitles the authorities to detain migrants lacking valid visas without charges. January 5, 2014 REUTERS/Nir Elias

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Thousands of African migrants, many holding banners demanding freedom for compatriots jailed as illegal job-seekers by Israel, protested on Sunday (January 5) in Tel Aviv against a new open-ended detention law.

Human rights groups say more than 300 people have been arrested since the law, which allows authorities to detain migrants without valid visas indefinitely, was passed by Israel's parliament two weeks ago.

"We are asking that the Israeli government (do) three simple things. First is to cancel the new law and release all the prisoners. Second is to check our asylum requests in a fair and transparent way. Third is to give the basic human rights including the right to work and right for health service and so on," said Daud Nemos, a migrant from Eritrea who took part in the protest.

An Israeli student and social worker, Noa Erental, voiced her solidarity.

"The problematic thing is that people who want human rights and came here to a democratic country to have some safe place are sent into prison, they are treated as prisoners, as criminals, as cancer, some people call them cancer in Israel," she said.

Some 60,000 migrants, largely from the violence-ridden African countries of Eritrea and Sudan, have sneaked into Israel across a once-porous border with Egypt since 2006, Israeli authorities say.

Rights groups have appealed the new law, which replaced previous legislation annulled by the Supreme Court last September.

Police said the protesters had a license for a three-day demonstration at the site, and there was no reported violence or arrests at the scene. A police source estimated the number of protesters at 10,000.

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