African migrants fight racism with flowers in Tel Aviv


Screen grab from the video below. On the left, African migrants hold up bouquets of flowers. They are separated from anti-migrant protesters by a line of police officers. 

Protesters took to the streets of southern Tel Aviv this weekend to voice anger over a High Court ruling to close Israel’s “open” detention centre for African migrants, which the court judged illegal. Some of these protesters shouted racist slurs at migrants trying to offer them flowers as a gesture of peace.

WARNING : This video contains violent language and racist slurs.

Protesters in southern Tel Aviv on Sunday. Video filmed and subtitled by Observer David Sheen.

Over the past year, hundreds of African migrants from Eritrea and Sudan, some of whom had been living in Israel for years, have been sent to Holot, an “open” detention facility in the middle of the Negev desert. These migrants, who seek refugee status, are locked in overnight and must sign in several times a day. The authorities encourage them to return to their country of origin, but most of the migrants say they would be persecuted there and refuse to leave.

On September 22, Israel’s High Court voided the part of the law that allows for this open-ended detention, meaning that the migrants should theoretically go back to living freely in Israel, though they would still not legally be allowed to work. Many would no doubt return to southern Tel Aviv, where the African migrant community is concentrated. However, authorities have not yet closed the centre, and in fact have continued to issue migrants with summons to report to Holot. Some politicians are now trying to pass a law that would curtail the court’s ruling and keep the centre open.