Israel’s African Refugees Are Protesting Against Indefinite Detention
Last October, African asylum seekers living in south Tel Aviv held a demonstration demanding “security.” By that, they meant refugee status and the rights that accompany it: for example, the basic police protection most of us take for granted, including the right not to be attacked by a racist mob, like the kind occasionally seen in South Tel Aviv’s streets.
Three months later, Tel Aviv’s African asylum seekers are back out in protest against their treatment by the Israeli government. Last week I went to a demonstration in Jerusalem and found thousands of people gathered in front of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament building, chanting “We are refugees! We need protection!” Along with the already huge number of people who’d arrived over the previous few days, supporters were still streaming in by the busload, with estimates putting the total number of demonstrators at more than 20,000.
"Today we’re here to find our rights," said Sumia Nadiy, an asylum seeker from Sudan. "We came to speak with the government members in the Knesset, to see and talk to them to find a solution about the situation for refugees or asylum seekers here."
Uganda Is Taking Israel’s Unwanted Asylum Seekers to Get Cheaper Weapons
Earlier this month, it was reported that Israel was trying to swap Africans for arms. Or, more specifically, broker a deal with a number of unspecified African countries that would see thousands of African refugees included in lucrative deals for Israeli weapons and military training. If you take back these annoying, resources-sapping asylum seekers, the Israelis seemed to be saying, you can buy our guns for cheap.
The Israeli government is currently detaining thousands of African asylum seekers in desert prisons on the Egyptian border. Many of them now face being shipped off, against their will, to whichever African country will take them. Seemingly no thought has been paid to sending asylum seekers back to oppressive regimes they may have been fleeing in the first place.
It seems that a deal has now been struck, as late last week Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced that he would start the process of deporting migrants to Uganda.
The Israeli government already have strong relations with their Ugandan counterparts, with Israel currently “working to introduce sophisticated agro-technology" to the country. But it is newer support to Uganda’s military—weapons, training, fighter jets, and possibly drones—that many suspect to be behind the country’s decision to import asylum seekers from Israel.
"We’re hoping to operate in the coming weeks and months in a way that will make another exit for infiltrators in the country,” Sa’ar explained, “while trying to reach agreements with more countries.”
Last Stop, Tel Aviv is the story of the 60,000 asylum seekers living in Israel’s capital. Escaping dictatorships and indefinite military conscription, Africans flee their homelands in the hope of a better life, but arrive to find that they are criminalized, vilified, and unrecognized in the Israeli state. We got to know this marginalized population, who have no place in society and no option to return home.
Watch it here