Protesting African migrants march on Tel Aviv embassies

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands of asylum-seeking African migrants marched on foreign embassies in Tel Aviv, asking them to pressure Israel to consider their refugee requests and release those in prison.

At least 2,000 protesters demonstrated Monday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and hundreds of others in front of the embassies of France, Britain, Canada, Romania, Sweden, Italy and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, among others, according to reports.

The protesters, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, reportedly handed a letter to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro asking him to convince the U.S. government to intercede on their behalf.  Israel contends that most of the asylum seekers are economic refugees.

The African migrants are on the second day of a three-day strike. On Sunday, thousands of the migrants and their supporters demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square and hundreds more protested in front of the Interior Ministry offices in Eilat.

The larger protests follow two weeks of smaller demonstrations.

Last month, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Migrant Law to allow Israel to hold African migrants in prison for up to a year without trial and indefinitely in the open detention facility in Saharonim.

The Saharonim residence is called an “open facility,” with detainees free to leave during the day and with mandatory check-in at night. They are not allowed to hold jobs.

Israel’s Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional the law allowing officials to hold migrants without trial for three years.

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