[QODLink]
Middle East

African migrants march on Jerusalem

More than 100 migrants leave 'open' Israeli detention centre to protest law allowing authorities to keep them there.

Last updated: 16 Dec 2013 14:08
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Activists say the marchers intended to reach the parliament and ask to be recognised as refugees [Reuters]

More than 100 African migrants have abandoned an "open" Israeli detention centre to try to march on Jerusalem in protest at a law allowing authorities to keep them in custody indefinitely, activists have said.

The march through Sunday night and into Monday is in defiance of the new detention centre, which houses about 400 migrants, which allows detainees to leave during the day but requires them to return at nightfall.

The centre in southern Israel was opened last week after parliamentary approval of a law allowing the open-ended detention of migrants in the facility pending resolution of their asylum requests, implementation of deportation orders or voluntary repatriation.

We want them to know that we are still in a prison ... [although] they call it open detention

Mubarak Ali, Migrant detainee and marcher

Cheska Katz, of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants rights group, said that 135 men, mostly from Sudan, decided not to return to the centre on Sunday night and instead set out for Jerusalem, about 75 kms away.

"They aren't trying to elude the authorities. Their aim is to reach the Knesset and ask for their freedom and to be recognised as refugees," the activist, who is taking part in the march, told the Reuters news agency.

One of the detainees on the march, Mubarak Ali, told Israel Radio, "We want them to know that we are still in a prison ... [although] they call it open detention."

An Israeli immigration official told the radio station that the protesters had up to 48 hours to return to the facility or face detention in a standard jail.

An Israeli police spokesman had no immediate comment on whether police would prevent the group from reaching the city.

Court appeal

The protest coincided with an appeal filed in Israel's Supreme Court by human rights groups against the new law, which also stipulated that new migrants caught entering the country illegally could be jailed in a standard prison for up to a year.

The legislation replaced a previous law, annulled by the court last September, that had set a maximum three-year period of detention without charge for migrants.

A fortified fence built along the Egyptian border has halted the migrant flow since last year, but the presence of tens of thousands in the country is widely viewed as a threat to the Jewish state's social makeup.

Israeli law allows Jews worldwide to apply to move there, but African Jews have accused Israel of discrimination in the law's application.

436

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
In Brussels, NGO staff are being trained to fill the shortfall of field workers in West Africa.
Lawsuit by 6-year-old girl, locked up for a year, reignites debate over indefinite detention of 'boat people'.
Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are keeping a close eye on local supporters of the hard-line Middle East group.
Citizens of the tiny African nation say they're increasingly anxious of the fallout after alleged coup.
A humanitarian crisis and a budget crisis converge in the heart of the human smuggling corridor in Texas.
join our mailing list