One of the signatories. 'We wanted to explain to our neighbors why we came here'
One of the signatories. 'We wanted to explain to our neighbors why we came here and that we can’t go back.' Photo by Ilan Assayag
Text size

Sudanese migrants sent a letter tmigrants areo their neighbors in Ashdod's Rova Bet neighborhood this week asking them to vote for candidates in the upcoming Knesset and mayoral elections who support granting asylum to African migrants.

The letter follows what Israeli residents concede is tension over the presence of the African migrants in their neighborhood. About 18 months ago, the door to a Rova Bet apartment where migrants were living was set on fire, and about three months ago the neighborhood's longtime residents held a protest rally in the commercial center, calling for the migrants to be ejected from their neighborhood. "The girls are afraid to go out. There is tension in the air. But there were no extreme acts of violence," said one resident. "Most people in the neighborhood are against their living here."

About 2,000 Sudanese and Eritreans, defined by the Interior Ministry as labor migrants, live in Ashdod, most of them in Rova Bet. The migrants say they are the ones who are afraid to go out at night, because local residents attack them for no reason.

"We want to go back to our country and live there with our families," members of the Sudanese community wrote to their neighbors. "The moment security and quiet return to our country, we will leave Israel and go home."

In the letter, the migrants asked their neighbors to join their struggle and vote in the upcoming elections for candidates who will support recognizing them as refugees, and not send them back to war zones in their countries.

Eli Shalev, deputy chairman of Rova Bet's neighborhood committee, confirmed receipt of the letter, but said it will not change how the Israeli residents feel. "We have about 2,000 infiltrators in the neighborhood. Some of the residents are afraid to go out at night to dark places and parks. We have no problem with people defined as refugees, but most of the ones here are illegal infiltrators. There is tension in the neighborhood."

One of the Sudanese migrants who signed the letter, who asked that his name not be used, said he believes the letter will lead to good neighborliness. "We wrote the letter because we wanted to explain to our neighbors why we came here and that we can't go back to Sudan because of the wars. We want to tell them about everything we went through."

Shani Sokol, communications and publications director of the Israeli branch of Amnesty International, which assists the Sudanese community, said: "We have advised the Sudanese migrants on human rights. The goal is to make them activists for their own rights. They wrote the letter to raise the awareness of their story in the surrounding area and get closer to the Israeli population."

According to the Ashdod police, there are no unusual incidents in Rova Bet. The municipal hotline said it had received no calls about violence but that there had been complaints about late-night drinking and noise. One of the residents told Haaretz the noise came from "large groups of people drinking."

City officials said they had decided to send more municipal inspectors to Rova Bet to increase residents' sense of security.