Demonstrators protest attack on migrants in Israel
By Al Arabiya with Agencies
About 100 people gathered on Tuesday in downtown Jerusalem to protest an attack on the previous day on a building which housed more than 50 foreign workers.
The arson attack was one of the most violent ones seen against African migrants in the past month.
Four African migrants were taken to an Israeli hospital with burns and treated for smoke inhalation on Monday after the deadly arson attempt on the Jerusalem building in which they were living, police said.
The incident, which police described as “very serious,” took place in an old two-story building in a poor neighborhood near the city’s Mahane Yehuda market, just after 3:00 am (0000 GMT).
Ten of the building’s residents also attended the Jerusalem protest. They said they were heartened to see Israelis who did not support the attack, reported the Jerusalem Post.
“I won’t say all of Israel is not good, it was just one person who made the fire,” 22-year-old Alula from Ethiopia told the Post. “They say the same thing about Africans, there’s one person who drinks a lot because he can’t work and lives outside and they see everyone as bad.”
Alula’s hand was injured in the fire, forcing him to quit his job as a busboy at a restaurant. He doesn’t know how he’ll work for the next month. Additionally, he lost his salary from the last month during the fire, the daily reported.
The paper also said that residents had no food and no way to cook, adding that an Eritrean man named Yakeub had untreated burns on his hands and no money to pay for a doctor. “I used Colgate toothpaste to keep it clean,” he said.
Police said the fire was started in a narrow entrance corridor which led to several apartments inside the building, home to 18 African migrants. On the external walls of the building, someone had sprayed Hebrew-language graffiti reading: “Get out of the neighborhood.”
“There were 18 people living in the building, and the corridor leads to all the apartments,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, indicating that all the residents were of African origin.
“It is obvious that the people living there were targeted and not just the building,” he said, adding that at least four people were taken to hospital, suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.
The rising number of Africans in Israel has caused racial tensions which recently led to a riot in southern Tel Aviv, where tens of thousands of migrants live.
The incident occurred when a protest by 1,000 people turned violent after several far-right MPs made inflammatory speeches, with one referring to the migrants as “a cancer.”
Demonstrators went on the rampage, smashing up and looting African-run shops and property.
Tough days ahead for illegal migrants
In a new law initiative, Israel will be able to jail illegal migrants without charge for up to three years, an official said during the weekend, as part of efforts to curb a major influx of Africans from across the Egyptian border.
An interior ministry spokeswoman told AFP that following a directive from minister Eli Yishai, legislation from the start of the year giving authorities powers to detain migrants for up to three years was to be implemented.
Spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said that the order had previously been to jail illegal migrants who entered Israel for 10 days, before then setting them free inside the country.
Haddad said that during May alone 2,031 Africans entered the country.
Interior ministry statistics show there are approximately 60,000 African immigrants in total who have entered Israel illegally.
Some are refugees fleeing persecution in their home nations, but others are economic migrants.
Received on Thu Jun 07 2012 - 12:20:14 EDT