Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Refugees: Exodus - Israel uproots 3,000 African assylum seekers

Sudanese children protesting in Tel Aviv against being uprooted again

Some 3,000 African asylum-seekers have to leave Tel Aviv because of an August 2008 ruling by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior.

The ruling permits asylum-seekers to reside and work only in towns and cities north of Hadera and south of Gedera, about an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, where they now live.

The ruling was initially imposed only on newcomers but in recent months asylum-seekers living in Israel for longer periods have experienced the same constraints on their work permits, forcing them to leave their homes.

Unemployment is rife in Israel's south and north while in Tel Aviv asylum-seekers can find menial jobs as street-sweepers or restaurant workers and are able to support their families.

Tel Aviv also has the one school in Israel that caters to the special needs of asylum-seekers’ children – the Bialik Elementary and High School in southern Tel Aviv.

On 17 February, the asylum-seekers protested in Tel Aviv against this regulation. Holding banners and chanting slogans, they asked the government to allow them to remain in Israel's main city.

Romm Levkovits, a spokesperson for the “Moked” (hot line for foreign workers), told IRIN: “This rule uproots scores of asylum-seekers and forces them to start life anew far away from their communities, and far from the services offered to them here, like free clinics and schools. It also forces them to be far from their jobs.”

A source in the aid community told IRIN: "We feel that this is a move aimed at returning the asylum-seekers to work in agriculture at less than minimum wages. Asylum-seekers have worked before in agriculture and were treated harshly by their employers. They were finally allowed to leave the Kibbutzim [collective farms] and start a normal life, now it seems that someone in the Population Administration [part of the interior ministry] wants to force them back into 'slave labour’.”

This allegation follows Israel’s attempt to reduce the number of foreign workers, mostly Thai, needed for agricultural work.

However, Sabine Haddad, an interior ministry spokesperson, told IRIN normal jobs were available outside Tel Aviv.

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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