The Eritrean ambassador to Israel was physically attacked by a mob of Eritrean migrants Saturday during an event for Eritrean nationals at Kibbutz Kinneret, near Tiberias.
Police said the incident began when migrants opposed to the regime of Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki, who has ruled the African country for over 20 years, showed up and began confronting those present. The encounter turned violent when stones were thrown at the attendees and metal bars were used to beat them, according to the police.
The ambassador, Tesfamariam Tekeste, was quickly removed from the scene and was not hurt.
Police said they arrested 50 people in the incident. They were taken to the Tiberias police station where they were due to be questioned with the help of interpreters.
Magen David Adom paramedics at the scene said they treated 12 people for light injuries, while one man was taken to Rambam hospital in Haifa for a head injury.
Eritreans make up more than 60 percent of the more than 60,000 African migrants who are believed to be in Israel.
As a signatory of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Israel cannot deport asylum seekers if they face danger in their country of origin. Israel grants Eritreans collective protection, but does not recognize them as refugees.
However, Israel has pursued a controversial option of “voluntary deportation,” in which migrants agree to leave, either to their country of origin or a third country, in exchange for monetary compensation.
In February, a group of some 25 Eritrean migrants said they were pressured by Israeli immigration officials to sign a declaration saying they would agree to be deported to Uganda and then discovered that they were scheduled to fly to Eritrea, human rights group Hotline for Migrant Workers charged. The Eritreans refused to get on the plane.
On Thursday, for the second time a week, dozens of African migrants escaped a new detention facility in Israel’s south, and made their way toward the Beersheba central bus station for a planned protest sit-in. The protesters were arrested and taken to either Saharonim or the newly established Holot.
Since last Thursday, 480 African migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, were transferred to the Holot open detention facility, which is located in the Negev desert and can hold as many as 3,000.
Earlier this month, the Knesset passed a new version of the so-called “Infiltrator Law,” which allows for the detention of illegal African migrants for up to one year, and additionally provides for the detention of such individuals in what is termed an “open” facility.
The previous version of the law, which provided for detaining “infiltrators” for at least three years, was struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice in September.