Thousands of African migrants protest in Israel

Photo: Thousands of African migrants protest in Israel / Israel

Thousands of African migrants, many of them from Sudan and Eritrea, protested in central Tel Aviv on Sunday, demanding the status of asylum seekers in Israel, dpa reported.

The protesters marched from a neighbourhood in south Tel Aviv, where many of them illegally stay and work, to the Mediterranean city's Rabin Square, where they sat down and, amid whistling and cheering, displayed flags and signs stating "Freedom yes, prison no."

Organizers, who include Israeli activists lobbying on their behalf, put their number at 20,000. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed there were thousands.

The protesters denounced the detention of many African migrants in a new "open" facility near the border with Egypt, that was inaugurated late last year.

In the open facility, the migrants must report to authorities several times a day. Many of those who do not report are later detained and sent to a more secure facility.

Israel says it detains the migrants because they cross the border illegally and because they stay and work in the country illegally. It says it offers grants of several hundred dollars to migrants agreeing to go home.

Many migrants cross into Israel though Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. They deny that they have left their country of origin for economic reasons, and say their lives are in danger if they return.

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