Some 100 south Tel Aviv residents protested outside High Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor’s home in Jerusalem on Saturday against what they called the court’s inaction on deporting illegal African migrants.
The High Court is currently hearing a case on deporting the migrants to a unspecified third country and protesters on Saturday accused the court of “foot-dragging” and abandoning southern Tel Aviv residents.
“For 10 years the residents of south Tel Aviv have been suffering,” a protester told the Ynet news site.
“We will return every week until the residents of Rehavia taste our suffering,” he added, referring to the upscale Jerusalem neighborhood where Naor lives.
Likud Minister Ofir Akunis expressed his support for the protesters and said the High Court was holding up the deportation of the migrants to a third country.
“The last obstacle to transferring illegal immigrants from Israel to other countries is the delay on the judges’ ruling on the issue that has lasted for months,” he said.
The Population and Immigration Authority says over 40,000 illegal migrants are residing in Israel as of 2016, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan. Many live in the poorer neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv, with some blaming them for rising crime rates in the city.
Israel has in recent years sought to limit the migrants’ numbers. It has built a fence along the border with Egypt, a once-common migration route, and sent many migrants to a desert detention facility — and in some cases back to third-party countries in Africa.
Many say they are fleeing conflict and persecution and are seeking refugee status. Israeli officials contend they are economic migrants, and have resisted calls to recognize them as refugees.
Between 2009 and 2015, 2,408 Eritreans requested refugee status in Israel. The state has responded to 1.42% of these requests, or 45 people, rejecting 40 outright and granting temporary protection to five, while the Interior Ministry granted refugee status to four people.
Israel’s approval ratings for refugee status are drastically lower than international levels. According to the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, internationally, 84 percent of Eritreans and 56 percent of Sudanese asylum seekers received either refugee status or extended protection in 2014.