Eritreans rally in Israel for refugee status

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel demonstrated, calling for the Jewish state to recognize them as refugees.

Rallying outside the European Union delegation’s Israeli headquarters near Tel Aviv Thursday, demonstrators praised the recently released United Nations report on human rights abuses in the African country and called on both European states and Israel to give Eritreans refugee status, Agence France Press reported.

Demonstrators waved Israeli and Eritrean flags.

“Eritreans don’t flee their home and their country because they want a better job, or a car, or a plasma TV. We flee our homes because we… are born to be free and live in dignity and safety,” a statement from the organizers said.

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The U.N. report is the culmination of a year of investigation about Eritrea and said violations there were on a “scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere.”

Some 42,000 Eritrean and Sudanese citizens are living in Israel, with 2,000 confined to a detention facility in Holot. The residents there are required to check in twice a day. Many of the migrants have made their home in south Tel Aviv.

Israel has granted official refugee status to just four of more than 5,500 official asylum seekers.

Over 9,000 African migrants have left Israel in the past two years in voluntary departures, according to Haaretz. The Israeli government provided them with airplane tickets and grants.

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