Eritrean Refugees in Great Danger in South Tel Aviv
[Eritrean Human Rights: Issue # 815]
I write to you after a long and disturbing week in which we faced a pogrom against asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv. A pogrom that reached a pick but was not stopped completely up until now. We continue to receive information about hate crimes against asylum seekers in different places around the country.
I wish to share with you the testimony of Elisabeth Tsurkov, a HMW devoted volunteer, who spent the night of the pogrom in the streets of south Tel Aviv:
"On Wednesday, May 23, a large protest of residents of the southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods cascaded into a pogrom. After a dose of racial incitement from the Members of Knesset who spoke before them, Miri Regev, Danny Danon, Yariv Levin and Michael Ben-Ari, a handful of the protesters went on to attack Africans and stores owned by them in the Hatikva neighborhood. I arrived to the neighborhood with a camera to document what had happened. I saw a policeman protecting a group of Eritrean refugees after one of the family members was attacked with a glass bottle while carrying his son, who as a result was dropped to the ground. I saw the fear in the eyes of the refugees, especially in the eyes of the Eritrean mother who held on to her son, trying to shield him from the hostile world he was brought into. I saw the blood of a Sudanese refugee on the pavement after he was stoned by a group of Israelis chasing after him. I saw a shop owned by an Eritrean refugee, which was looted after its storefront was broken.
It was painful witnessing the scenes unfolding before my eyes, but the sounds were even worse. The neighborhood residents who congregated at the points of altercation ran off at the mouth. Some called the refugees “cockroaches”, a woman said they should be killed and exterminated because non-Jews should not exist on the land of Israel, another of the residents said the refugees’ heads need to be cut like chickens, others simply thought “they should be deported back to Sudan.” The hatred was also directed at the “leftists” whom the residents blamed for the encroachment of refugees in their neighborhood. Clearly, the incitement of representatives of the government, who presented themselves as powerless in the face of the refugee aid organizations and the Left, was highly effective.
Throughout the night, I walked around the neighborhood with the feeling that I’m witnessing historic events and with historic precedents: right-wing politicians inciting a mob to attack members of an ethnic group that is presented at the source of all evil and the reason for the real suffering of the citizens. The words uttered by the residents of the neighborhood were said in the past about Jews and members of other peoples and tribes that were exterminated in genocide (the Tutsi in Rwanda, Kurds in Iraq, Muslims in Bosnia). The racism, the populism, and the irresponsibility of the representatives of the government resulted in a tragedy on Wednesday night, and the tepid condemnations of the violence by the inciters and the continuation of the racial incitement by Israeli leaders indicates the lesson is yet to be learned"
Hotline for Migrant Workers call the Israeli government to accept responsibility for last events and seek for a solution. Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers currently in Israel will not be leaving the country anytime soon, certainly not within the next few years. Because of the political situation in their countries, it is impossible for them to return home.
The government must:
- Permit these asylum seekers to find legal work and grant them access to healthcare;
- Invest in the infrastructure of poorer neighborhoods to improve the living conditions for all local residents;
- Establish real working procedures for recognizing these people as political refugees and for handling requests for temporary asylum;
- Stop the governmental incitement against asylum seekers.
Need more answers? Read Myths, facts and suggestions: Asylum seekers in Israel.
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Wishing you all a calm and happy holiday,