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African asylum seekers detained in Israel

The immigration police are arresting people in the streets, even those with valid papers.

13 February 2009

African –asylum seekers in Israel are now living in fear, after several of their colleagues have been detained by the Israel Immigration police over the past few months.

The asylum seekers are said to have been issued with temporary documents from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which states that they are in the process of status determination and should not be detained.

This has prompted them from staying in their homes with witnesses revealing that the police are arresting people in the streets even those with valid papers, IRIN reported.

According to Sigar Rosen of Moked (a hotline for foreign workers), a part of the Refugee Rights Forum working closely with the community, the case of detaining asylum seekers with valid papers was not new.

“It has happened before but not to this extent, and while previously asylum seekers with temporary protection documents were released almost immediately, they are now being detained for weeks,” Sigar said.

However, the Immigration Authority Spokesperson, Superintendent Orit Friedman defended their decision saying that they were working (keeping asylum seekers in prison) as per orders from the Interior ministry and had to detain them till a representative from the ministry hears their case.

Reports from African Refugee Development Centre (ARDC) volunteer reveal that 67 asylum-seekers are being detained at Massiyahu prison near Tel Aviv waiting for their status to be determined.

Additional reports indicates that a new interior Ministry regulation has resulted to Sudanese and Eritrean asylum –seekers and refugees working in hotels in the southern resort city of Eilat receiving a new work permit with a stamp barring them from working and residing there.

According to Activists, the new regulation if implemented would leave some 2000 refugees and asylum seekers unemployed and homeless.

There are currently close to 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Refugees’ Rights Forum in Israel.

By Federica Gaida

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