as you may be aware on December 15, in an act of peaceful civil disobedience more than 150 Sudanese and African refugees marched hundreds of miles in the bitter cold and snow from an Israeli "open prison" facility in the desert in the south of the country to Jerusalem. It was the first time such a protest has taken place. After reaching Jerusalem the protestors were arrested by Israeli police and immigration authorities and return to prison.
Last night (Australian time - 19 Dec) a second "Freedom March" took place with more than 130 Sudanese and African refugees staging a similar protest. As part of their protest march, the asylum seekers have demanded freedom and an examination of their asylum claims and have protested the arrest of the 150 asylum seekers from the first protest march.
There are currently more than 50,000 African refugee in Israel, the vast majority from Sudan and Eritrea. Israel, however, has refused to examine or grant any of them refugees status. Since 1953, Israel has only offered refugee status - according to Refugees International - to "less than 0.01 percent of all applicants", approximately 200 people.
While Holot prison, where the protesters marched from has an "open door policy", it is located 65 kilometres from the nearest urban centre and no public transport services the facility. While refugee can "leave" the detention centre, they are required to appear for roll call three times a day and are forbidden to leave the facility between 10pm and 6am.
The Freedom March protests come in the wake of the new "anti-Infiltration Law" passed by the Israeli Knesset earlier this month, which established the indefinite incarceration of refugees -without trial - in the Holot open prison. The protests have demanded freedom and human rights for the refugees and called for the end to Israel's policy of jailing asylum seekers and denying them work permits. Protestors called for the government to fund refugee support programs, rather than fundin policing and detention centres.
Both freedom marches have been joined by Israeli activists who support refugee rights, as well as a public housing collective in Jerusalem and residents of the unrecognised Palestinian Bedouin village of al-Araqib which has been razed more than 50 times by the Israeli state.
Over the next day or two, I will be updating Live with Occupied Palestine with a number of articles and information on the refugee protests, the racist treatment of African refugees by the Israeli state.
You can also read my earlier post from October on Israel's racist treatment of African refugees here. It includes a video by Israeli journalist, David Sheen, who has been covering this issue for the last two years. Also included in the entry is an article I wrote in 2007 on the issue and article on the plight of African refugees in Israel.
I have included below some of the photos from the two Freedom Marches.
In solidarity, Kim
SECOND FREEDOM MARCH: 19 DECEMBER 2013