South Tel Aviv residents staged a courtroom protest on Wednesday during the hearing of a petition they had filed against the return of African migrants to their neighborhoods.
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The petition requested the High Court of Justice to prevent the return of African migrants to the neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv, following their release from detention.
“You don’t understand where you’re living,” residents shouted at the judges. “We’re afraid to step outside our homes”, said one, while another woman cried out: “Your honor, I’d like to see you come walk around our neighborhood and then reject our request.” The protestors were removed by security guards.
The three judges decided to combine the petition with another filed by human rights groups appealing against the new amendment to the Infiltration Law.
Tel Aviv resident Ruth Ya’acobi, whose daughter lives in the south of the city, said that “this outburst comes from a feeling of utmost distress, with people feeling that their voices are not heard. The discussion was short and fruitless, and the judges sounded dismissive.”
She added that “it was important to voice the distress of the southern neighborhoods, due to the flooding of these area with infiltrators. In its decisions, the High Court has consistently ignored the implications of this phenomenon for the weaker segments of Israel’s citizens, as if the problem has only one side to it, that of the infiltrators. They don’t comprehend that there are powerless people who have to pay the price for this state of affairs.”
The petition to the High Court, which was filed two months ago by 100 residents, together with the Israeli Immigration Policy Center, demanded that the imprisoned African migrants not be released, following the annulment of the previous amendment to the Infiltration Law. The petitioners asked the court to instruct the state to forbid their return to these neighborhoods and to present a plan for the eventual removal of African migrants from south Tel Aviv. The petitioners claim that “release of these prisoners and the continued non-enforcement of laws forbidding their employment will for certain impinge on our own security, wellbeing and freedom.”
“Unfortunately the High Court feels that the suffering of the residents of south Tel Aviv is not important or urgent enough to warrant a separate hearing,” said Orly Yugir, director of the Israeli Immigration Policy Center. “The unlawful marches originating from the detention center and the serious violent actions by infiltrators in recent weeks prove that the anarchic situation must be brought to an end, after critically affecting the security and wellbeing of residents. These residents have become transparent and voiceless, following the trampling of their rights by the incessant wave of infiltration in recent years.”
“We went there, activists and residents, so that we would be remembered,” said Shlomo Maslawi, head of an action committee set up by residents and also a member of Tel Aviv’s municipal council. “In 2010 the government also decided to set up detention facilities, but they never materialized. If they had done so then, we wouldn’t be facing tens of thousands of infiltrators today. We want our pressure to induce the court to force the government to implement its policies now, without caving in. For the next court session we’ll come not just in one bus but on many, with residents of many cities, not just from south Tel Aviv.”
The new amendment to the Infiltration Law, which was approved by the Knesset two weeks ago, determines that new African migrants will be detained for a year without trial for illegal entry into Israel. The amendment calls for the establishment of a detention center for those migrants already in Israel. Those placed in the new, open Holot Center in the Negev are forbidden from working, and they need to attend a roll call three times a day. They cannot leave the facility between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M. The state is committed to providing them with food, as well as health and welfare services.
Holot detainees embarked on two protest marches last week, after which 200 participants were returned to Saharonim prison for not abiding by the conditions of Holot. The Population and Immigration Authority has announced that it will soon require thousands of migrants, including many who reside in south Tel Aviv, to show up at Holot.