"No more prison," chanted the crowd that packed a Mediterranean
beachfront promenade across from the U.S. embassy.
Protesters also marched to the French, Italian, British, Canadian
and German embassies to hand over letters appealing for
international support against Israel's detention policy toward
migrants it sees as illegal job-seekers.
Three weeks ago, Israel's parliament approved the law permitting
authorities to detain migrants without valid visas indefinitely. The
measure has been condemned by critics as a violation of human
Some 60,000 migrants, largely from Eritrea and Sudan, have crossed
into Israel across a once-porous border with Egypt since 2006,
Israeli authorities say.
Many say they want asylum and safe haven. Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu has said he views the presence of many of the Africans as
a threat to Israel's Jewish social fabric.
An Israeli border fence has cut off the African influx from Egypt
since 2012, but migrants who have already crossed can be sent to
what the government describes as an open prison in Israel's southern
On Sunday, more than 10,000 Africans demonstrated outside Tel Aviv
city hall on Sunday on behalf of what human rights groups said are
more than 300 migrants arrested since the detention law went into
Dozens more have been summoned for detention, among them men with
wives and children, rights activists and the United Nations High
Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) said.
The new detention facility resembles a half-way house. Detainees can
leave but must report back three times a day, including at
nightfall, and may be held without a time limit pending voluntary
repatriation, implementation of deportation orders or resolution of
their asylum requests.
[to top of second column]
"Placing asylum-seekers in duress that may force them to opt to
return without having examined their asylum claims could amount to a
violation" of international refugee conventions, Walpurga
Englbrecht, the UNHCR representative in Israel, said in a statement
Englbrecht criticized Israel's official description of migrants as
"infiltrators", saying most were refugees or deserved international
Israel's newest detention facility "would appear to operate as a
detention centre from where there is no release", she said.
Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Saar rejected the allegations,
telling Israel Army Radio on Monday the vast majority of migrants
had come in search of jobs, not asylum.
"But Israel isn't their home and we will make efforts to ensure it
won't become a state of infiltrators," he said.
Hotline for Migrant Workers, an organization that advocates for the
Africans, accuses Israel of pressuring detainees to accept payouts
and leave the country. More than a dozen left earlier this year for
Eritrea to win release from prison.
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alison Williams)
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