African migrants rallied outside the United Nations office for refugees in Tel Aviv on Thursday to demand that the international organization intervene in their campaign to be recognized by Israel as refugees.
The protest was a continuation of a campaign that migrants began in January during which thousands of Africans demonstrated in Tel Aviv and outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.
The series of demonstrations by the migrants last month were unprecedented in scope and saw thousands of demonstrators march on embassies in Tel Aviv to appeal for assistance from the international community.
In one organized protest about 10,000 people, many of whom came by bus from Tel Aviv, gathered at the Rose Garden in Jerusalem across from the Knesset.
The migrants, mostly asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, are demanding official refugee status and protesting the government’s policy of holding some of them for long periods in the new Holot detention facility in the Negev.
The government, however, has said that it does not plan to change its policies toward the migrants and insists that most of them have come to Israel seeking work, not asylum.
Last month the UN’s refugee agency warned that Israel’s new rules allowing indefinite detention of asylum-seekers may violate international law.
The legislation, passed by the Knesset in December 2013, allowed the incarceration of illegal migrants after June 2013 for up to a year without trial and to keep them indefinitely at a detention facility in southern Israel.
In December the Supreme Court deemed a law to imprison illegal migrants for three years without trial unconstitutional, paving the way for the new law.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.