African migrants to stage protest strike
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African migrants to stage protest strike

Asylum seekers have been protesting their detention, government moves to encourage them to leave the country

Thousands of African asylum seekers participate in a meeting at the Levinsky Park, Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday night, January 4, 2014. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Thousands of African asylum seekers participate in a meeting at the Levinsky Park, Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday night, January 4, 2014. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In an escalation of their protest against measures restricting their movement and ability to work, African asylum seekers in Israel announced a general strike that will go into effect on Sunday morning.

The strike is set to begin with a protest march from the Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv to the city’s Rabin Square, where the protesters will stage a demonstration.

The asylum seekers demand refugee status and have been protesting the Israeli government’s policy of holding them in the new Holot facility in the Negev.

On Saturday night, thousands of activists met at the Levinsky Park to coordinate their activities. The strike comes after a series of protests in recent weeks since the opening of Holot.

In mid-December, 250 migrants fled Holot for a sit-in in Jerusalem to demonstrate against rules keeping them in the detention center. Hundreds of migrants were arrested during the sit-in.

Holot replaces the Saharonim prison complex, where migrants have been held up until last month.

The new facility, where the terms of the migrants’ detention are somewhat more lax than at Saharonim, was erected after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that incarcerating the migrants without trial for up to three years, as was previously the standard, was unconstitutional.

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 and, as such, 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.

Israel has largely stemmed the flow of African migrants into the country by upgrading the border fence with Egypt, but has sparked controversy over its handling of arrivals’ refugee claims — very few of which are upheld — and is grappling with fierce opposition in some quarters to the migrants’ presence, notably in southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods where many live.

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