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African Asylum Seekers in Limbo at Israeli Detention Center
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Sunday, 06 April 2014 12:33

The Israeli Supreme Court is due to begin hearings in April on a controversial law that has allowed the government to detain thousands of African migrants who are seeking political asylum.

The migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, say they fled repression in their home countries, but the Israeli government says they are in Israel mainly looking for work.

At the Holot detention center near Israel's border with Egypt, residents were outside one day recently, chatting and passing the time. One of the youngest was Nuraddin Ismail, a slender man from Darfur, Sudan.

Ismail has been a refugee for nearly a decade. He fled his home after government forces destroyed his village and arrested him. He was 16 years old.

"They targeted me as if I belonged to the rebels," he said. "I was arrested twice. That's why I can't live a normal life there like anyone else. So I left my country," he said.

Ismail spent four years in Chad and Libya before crossing Egypt's Sinai desert into Israel. His family remained behind in a refugee camp.

Ismail said many asylum-seekers were killed trying to cross the Sinai. Rights groups say others have been held for ransom, beaten and raped.

Those who make it to Israel are allowed by the government to stay while they apply for political asylum.

In the early years of the refugee movements, some found low-paying jobs, primarily with hotels, restaurants or cleaning companies. Often they would join together in groups to rent a small apartment.

But in the last seven years, their numbers grew to more than 50,000. Many were concentrated in poor urban areas, whose other residents often resented the Africans' presence. The immigrants were blamed for rising crime rates, but police say this is not true.

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 May 2015 10:42
 
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