SUDAN/ERITREA: Is Israel Marvin K. Mooney-ing Folks?

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The following article gives a little insight into the current immigration issues going on in Israel regarding primarily East African refugees. Although Israel has housed a fair number of African immigrants over the years (many from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ivory Coast and Sudan) the environment is becoming more hostile between the Israeli government and the immigrant populations. It really boils down to are they refugees escaping oppression in their homelands or are they economic migrants looking to start prosperous lives in a country that is more economically advanced than their nations of origins. Check out the following article:

(Written by Richard Galpin, taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25757714)

Protests throw spotlight on Israel’s African migrant pressures

Hundreds of African women and children marched across the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Wednesday to demonstrate outside the offices of the United Nations and the embassy of the United States. It was the latest in an unprecedented wave of protests by African asylum seekers, who fear the Israeli government is trying to force them out of the country. Since a new law came into force last month, the asylum seekers – most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea – say the authorities have been instructing many of them to leave the cities and towns where they have been living and report to a detention centre in the Negev desert in southern Israel.

The new law gives the authorities the power to hold them in the centre indefinitely, putting them under intense pressure to agree to leave Israel voluntarily.

The African immigrants began arriving in Israel in 2006 and it is estimated there are currently 53,000 in the country.

Female African asylum seekers and their children demonstrate on January 15, 2014 in Tel Aviv, Israel.T

“The reason I am here is because I fled violence and persecution back home, the on-going genocide,” says Dahar Adam who is from the Darfur region of Sudan. “I came here seeking protection as a refugee and have been here almost seven years, but I didn’t get any kind of status or recognition as a refugee.”

In a rare public rebuke, the UN Refugee Agency has accused the Israeli government of following a policy that “creates fear and chaos amongst asylum seekers,” and warned that putting asylum seekers under pressure to return home, without first considering why they had fled, could amount to a violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

A child from the African migrant community holds a placard ahead of a protest against Israel's detention policy toward migrants, in Tel Aviv (15 January 2014)

But the government is sticking to its position that the African immigrants are not refugees but are instead economic migrants who see Israel as an attractive destination because it is the nearest developed country where they can find jobs.

The government also insists it has the systems in place to process any asylum applications.

“Only a few hundred have applied,” says the foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor.

“It is quite a mystery why not more have tried to use the procedure.”

And only a handful so far, approximately a dozen, have been granted refugee status.

“The others have been found to be working migrants or other types of migrants and did not qualify for refugee status under the criteria of the Refugee Convention,” Mr Palmor said.

Male African migrants protesting in Tel Aviv (January 2014)

But a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency rejected this, telling the BBC that the Israeli government, having initially advised the immigrants they did not need to apply for asylum, then changed its mind in 2012.

But, the UN spokesperson said, the government failed to inform the migrants that they needed to submit their applications.

any of the Africans live in a run-down area of south Tel Aviv, attracted to the city by the chance of finding work in the many restaurants, cafes and hotels.

African migrants walk on a road after abandoning a detention facility in the southern Israeli desert (December 15, 2013)Illegal migrants who agree to leave the country get $3,500 compensation

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the immigrants that their protests will make no difference to the government’s policy of removing “illegal infiltrators”.

The increasingly shrill debate about the African immigrants prompted President Shimon Peres to speak out last week.

He reminded Israelis that the country had signed the UN convention on refugees and this prohibited the deportation of people to countries where their lives would be in danger.

He added: “We remember what it means to be refugees and strangers.”

And all this even though the government says it has successfully stopped almost all illegal immigration into Israel, with the completion last year of a fence across the border with Egypt – the route which the Sudanese, Eritreans and other Africans had been using.

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