Photo by Aladin Abaker, posted on Facebook by Assaf.
 
A patron of a Sudanese restaurant in southern Tel Aviv snapped photos of municipal inspectors destroying food by pouring bleach on it, as part of a raid on about 10 businesses run by African migrants on Sunday night. Our Observer, who owns the restaurant, believes the authorities are cracking down in an effort to pressure African migrants into leaving Israel.
 
There are over 50,000 African asylum seekers living in Israel, mostly in Tel Aviv. While they have papers allowing them to reside in the country, the vast majority of them are not permitted to work. However, the government has largely turned a blind eye to those who do so illegally. They mainly do menial labour, such as cleaning work, often for less than minimum wage. A few fare better: Tel Aviv authorities report that about 150 businesses, mainly located in the south of the city, are run by African migrants, many without licenses.
 
According to the nonprofit Assaf, which works to defend African migrants’ rights, there are several ways in which they can run businesses. There are the few who have work permits, of course, but there is also an illegal way: working in partnership with Israeli citizens, who are the business owners on paper.
 
Sunday’s raids were carried out by municipal inspectors accompanied by a large police contingent. In some cases, they confiscated equipment, such as refrigerators; in others, they soldered doors shut. According to Tel Aviv’s Deputy Director General Ruby Zaluf, the authorities did this “to eradicate the undesirable phenomenon of businesses operating illegally, with sanitation and safety problems, and illegal connections to electricity and water; and sales of alcoholic beverages without permits.”
 
According to Assaf’s advocacy coordinator, Orit Marom, such raids are common in Tel Aviv, occurring at the rate of one or two a week, but raids on such a scale are rare: “This might be due to the fact that municipal elections are right around the corner,” she says. Tel Aviv’s mayor is up for re-election in October.
 
Tensions between Israeli citizens and African migrants have become particularly apparent in southern Tel Aviv over the past year, with repeated protests and acts of violence against Africans.
 
A patron of Abdalla Mustafa's restaurant watches as municipal inspectors destroy food with bleach. Photo by Aladin Abaker, posted on Facebook by Assaf.

“They destroyed so much food – more than 200 kilos of frozen meat alone”

Abdalla Mustafa is the owner of a Sudanese restaurant in southern Tel Aviv. He is one of the few Sudanese migrants – less than 500 - who were given work permits when they arrived during a first wave of immigration back in 2006.
 
The authorities came into the restaurant Sunday at dinnertime and told us our food was not good, not fresh. They didn’t explain why they believed this. I told them that we had bought all the food that day and the day before, and that anything older than that was in our freezers. I showed them my license, but that didn’t satisfy them. I also told them I could give them the phone number of the butcher where I bought my meat, but they didn’t want it.
 
They then proceeded to pour bleach on all the food. There was so much food – more than 200 kilos of frozen meat alone. [Following the release of the photos taken in Mustafa’s restaurant, which were widely relayed through social media, the Health Ministry released a statement explaining that inspectors had destroyed food because “it was stored in inappropriate temperatures and food came from unknown sources.” They did not specify which businesses they destroyed food in.] They didn’t take any samples for testing. They told me I could keep the restaurant open for now, and that they would call me with further instructions.
 
I’m certain that they did this because they don’t like us, because we’re not Israeli. They keep asking me to renew my licenses, which I’ve done several times already since I opened the restaurant two years ago, but nothing satisfies them. They’re harassing African business owners so that we’ll leave Israel. And indeed, many Sudanese migrants have left recently, finding it too hard to survive here. Myself, I’m trying to leave, hopefully back to Africa. This is no way to live.
 
 
Photos by Aladin Abaker, posted on Facebook by Assaf.
 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Gaelle Faure (@gjfaure).