TEL AVIV (JTA) — Nearly 1,000 Eritreans demonstrated in Tel Aviv, demanding that Israeli authorities allow them to seek refugee status.
During Tuesday’s demonstration, the Eritreans also demanded an end to deportations of newcomers from Eritrea and other countries back to Egypt after they cross the border into Israel. The protesters wore white masks to conceal their faces, fearing if their faces were revealed their families in Eritrea could be persecuted by authorities there.
More than 5,000 of the 13,000 asylum seekers in Israel are from Eritrea, which is located in northeast Africa.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees prohibits deportation of asylum seekers to Eritrea due to the danger facing those who return there.
"We already see a little light. We believe in the democracy in Israel and that is why we dared demonstrate, something we would never do in Eritrea," one of the Eritrean Committee members who organized the demonstration said. " We want the Israeli public to understand our problems and we believe that the Israeli public will influence the government to accept our plea."