JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands of asylum-seeking African migrants protested outside the Knesset in Jerusalem over Israel’s response to their refugee requests.
The protesters, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea and said to number about 10,000, are on a nationwide strike from their mostly low-level jobs that on Wednesday extended to a fourth day. Some 90 chartered buses brought the migrants from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for the protests.
The protesters carried signs reading “We need protection”; “We are not criminals, we are refugees”; and “We are not infiltrators, we are human beings.”
Eight representatives of the migrants were denied permission Wednesday to enter the Knesset to meet with three lawmakers by the body’s speaker, Yuli Edelstein, reportedly at the request of Miri Regev of the Likud party. Regev reportedly is against having the African migrants anywhere in Israel.
The protest follows three days of demonstrations by the migrants and their supporters in Tel Aviv, including marching on foreign embassies in the city to enlist the help of foreign governments to intercede with Israeli officials.
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.