Immigration Officials Raid Asylum Seeker’s Graduation Party in Tel Aviv

Seven migrant workers arrested after officers storm private event; activists complain of heavy-handed treatment.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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An officer arrests a partygoer in Tel Aviv on May 28, 2015.
An officer arrests a partygoer in Tel Aviv on May 28, 2015. Credit: Sonia Chaim
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Police and immigration authority inspectors raided a private party being held by Africa asylum seekers in a south Tel Aviv café last Thursday night, arresting seven people after checking partygoers’ residency permits.

The party took place in a small club that serves as a gathering place for the migrant community, and was attended by 200 Sudanese, Eritreans and Israelis. They were celebrating a Sudanese asylum seeker’s graduation from the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

The event included a few short speeches and some musical spots, with light refreshments and alcohol being served. The event was interrupted toward the end by police officers and inspectors from the Population, Immigration and Border Authority. A video recording shows officers using force while arresting one of the men, even though he seemingly offered no resistance.

“The police arrived at 22:45 P.M. and asked us to turn off the music since it was late. They asked everyone to leave, saying there were too many people in the café. Then they saw a few crates of beer that had been brought in for the party,” says Mutasim Ali, a Sudanese citizen and one of the migrant community’s leaders.

“The inspectors were waiting at the entrance and asked everyone to show their papers as they were exiting, detaining a few of them. When everyone left, the inspectors went inside to search for more people. Some people had left their documents at home and others had no visas. They were arrested and treated very roughly,” added Ali, noting that four of the seven men were released over the weekend.

“They just wanted to spoil the event,” alleged Ali, who has been held at the Holot detention facility in the Negev for more than a year. “That’s the authority’s aim. They don’t want us to have any joy. It’s part of the policy intended to make our lives miserable. It’s always like that at events we organize. They never end well, because of the police and the Population and Immigration Authority.”

Sigal Avivi, a human rights activist who was present at the event, was also heavily critical of the authorities. “The incident was the most humiliating thing imaginable. All those attending came in their suits, out of respect for the person who had completed his studies,” she said. “There was no noise, only some speeches and a few songs. Everything was very orderly. A whole community gathered to celebrate a joyful occasion. I can’t even describe the extent of the humiliation.”

Tel Aviv police officials said they were safeguarding the activity of the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, and that all queries should be addressed to the authority.

In another incident, south Tel Aviv residents confronted asylum seekers and human rights activists on Saturday morning. A few residents waited in Levinsky Park, where the activists were boarding a bus going to Holot. The activists said they were pushed and spat upon, with rude gestures directed at them as they were boarding the bus. One man used a megaphone to curse asylum seekers who were passing by: “Go back to Eritrea, you birth machine – stop having more children,” he called out to a female asylum seeker. The police were present but did not intervene.

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