TEL AVIV — Thousands of African migrants and Israeli activists who support them demonstrated tonight in Tel Aviv, demanding the status of asylum seekers in Israel.
The protesters marched from a neighborhood in south Tel Aviv where many of them illegally stay and work to the Mediterranean city’s central Rabin Square, holding candles and chanting “freedom yes.”
They held up signs stating, “we are refugees,” while supporters held up signs with “Their freedom, our democracy!”
The marchers decried the detention of African migrants, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea, in a new “open” facility near the border with Egypt that was inaugurated last month, as well as in a closed one.
In the open facility, the migrants must report to authorities several times daily.
Israel says it detains the migrants because they cross the border illegally and because they stay and work in the country illegally. It says it offers grants of several hundred dollars to each migrant who agrees to go home voluntarily. Many of the migrants deny that they left for economic reasons, say their lives are in danger in their countries of origin and demand acceptance as refugees.
Israel and Egypt’s Sinai peninsula provide the only land route from Africa to Europe and Asia.