A photo-reportage on African refugees in Israel
Beginning around the year 2005 and continuing until 2012, approximately 65,000 African refugees crossed the border between Egypt and Israel seeking refuge from political persecution or war.
Today a total of about 40,000 refugees live in Israel, of which 32,000 are Eritreans and 8,000 are Sudanese. The government and most media outlets generally label them as „infiltrators“ instead of asylum seekers who are in need of support.
Refugees are not given any legal status in Israel which consequently prevents them from being able to plant roots in the country. Humanitarian support is not provided by the government and refugees are not officially permitted to work (although working with a valid contract is not prosecuted). The government's policy is one of „temporary protection“. Since the home countries of these refugees are not safe to return to, deporting them would violate international law. This means that at the moment, refugees can not get deported yet never truly have the chance to fully integrate into Israeli society.
At a rally against the persecution of asylum seekers on June 10th 2017 in Tel Aviv, several thousand refugees and supporters protested the new „Deposit Law“ according to which employers of refugees are required to deduct 20% of an asylum seekers salary and deposit it into a special state controlled bank account.
During the rally, the protesters also faced anti-immigration activists.
Israel treats African refugees in accordance with the Anti-Infiltration law which allows the government to send them to the Holot detention facility in the Negev desert for up to 12 months.
The Holot facility is run by the Israel Prison Service. Most of the refugees in Holot had spent several years working, making friends and creating a community before being uprooted and forced to relocate to the desert.