Last December some 200 African asylum seekers started a march from the open detention centre Holot in the south of the country towards the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. ‘We are not afraid to march, sun, rain or snow. We’ll march to Jerusalem to ask the government for our rights. We can no longer stay in this prison’, said Masala, a young Eritrean marcher. After two days of marching in rough weather conditions, supported by Israeli human rights groups, they were all arrested and returned to the Saharonim jail, where the conditions are harsher.
Altogether some 53,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, live in Israel. Most have reached Israel through Egypt after a harrowing journey. Most have arrived from areas where massacres, murders, civil wars and political persecution are daily occurrences. In Israel, however, they are not called asylum seekers, but rather ‘infiltrators’ – a term harking back to the 1950s when Palestinian refugees, expelled from Israel during and after the 1948 war, attempted to get back to their homes and lands and were prevented from doing so. Read more