Hundreds Protest Over South Tel Aviv Illegal Migrant Issue

An African laborer rides a bike carrying fabric along a main street in South Tel Aviv. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Hundreds of residents of south Tel Aviv protested Motzoei Shabbos outside the home of High Court judge Miriam Naor. The protesters demonstrated against what they called the “foot dragging” of the High Court on petitions to remove illegal migrants to Israel from the country and send them to an African country that agrees to accept them.

Speaking to the NRG site, one of the organizers of the protest said that the slow handling of the case by the court was a tactic to discourage petitions of this type. “We filed numerous petitions with courts at all levels, and when it comes to the High Court the judges ask for endless numbers of clarifications and examples. This leads to the endless wait for a decision, it goes on and on. We believe they are doing this on purpose, and meanwhile the illegals remain here and become more rooted in Israel every day.”

Most of the illegal migrants to Israel are from South Sudan and Eritrea, and most have claimed the status of political refugees. Under international law, Israel cannot deport political refugees back to their own country, but they do need to be certified as refugees by Israeli authorities. The government contends that most of the migrants are here to work, not for political asylum, but with a backlog of years in cases to decide whether claims of political asylum are accurate, the illegals effectively are able to stay and work in Israel without a decision being made on their status.

Last year, the government worked out an arrangement with an unnamed African country to accept Eritean and South Sudanese migrants from Israel. That country promised to accept the migrants and examine their claims of refugee status, and provide them with employment. The deal was challenged by groups advocating on behalf of the migrants.

Many of the migrants have settled in south Tel Aviv, where Israelis say they have taken over the streets and institutions – imposing a reign of fear on residents and bringing crime and disease into the neighborhood. “More and more of them are coming all the time, and they are bearing children, which means that more schools and kindergartens have to be allocated to them,” said protesters. “We in south Tel Aviv are at a breaking point. The court is deliberately dragging its feet in order to break our opposition.”

The protest was conducted without police permission, the organizers said, but referred to the decision made Thursday by the court in the matter of protests outside the home of State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit, in which the court said that the right of protest outweighs the right of residents to peace and quiet. Despite the fact that the protest was illegal, Tourism Minister Ofir Akunis said he supported the claims. “The court decision is the last blockade to our removing the illegals to a country that has agreed to accept them, and the court has been sitting on this for months. Residents of south Tel Aviv have a right to protest outside the judge’s home. In the same way that politicians such as myself are subject to public opinion because of our actions, so are High Court judges subject to public opinion for their actions,” Akunis said.

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