An African migrant’s plea for a few basic rights: Letter

By IndepthAfrica
In Featured 2
May 24th, 2012
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The African asylum seekers who wrote the letters. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

If the government doesn’t want us here, let them deport us. But they can’t have it both ways – exploiting our presence here without giving us basic rights.

I live in the Shapira neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, what is currently happening in the neighborhood is intolerable. I have a friend who was told last Friday by two individuals that they were police officers in civilian clothing, who then proceeded to push him and steal 700 shekels from him. The police, of course, did not even deal with it. I think the Israelis do not treat us well, and then due to their guilt they come complaining about us.

I have been here for five years and I never heard so many media reports on crime and rape as I have had in recent days.

Is it by chance that these incidents have been coming up just days after firebombs were thrown at a preschool and at our homes? Is it an attempt to justify these horrible acts?

I, myself, have nothing to lose. I could have acted like the Israelis and even worse. But I respect them and the fact that it is their country, and that they allow us to be here, and there are also good people here who help.

The problem is that the Israeli government is two-faced. On the one hand, it receives us and presents itself as an enlightened country that respects the international refugee convention, and on the other hand it does not give us anything.

If those in the government do not want us to be here, then let them deport us. But they can’t have it both ways – not deport us and also not give us basic conditions to live here. That is exploitation. The same thing is happening in the neighborhood.

On one hand, we are charged a tremendous amount of money for rent. On the other hand, our money goes to the same Israelis who tell me that I am unwanted and who try to get me deported. How is our money good, but we aren’t?

In Eilat it’s also this way. When there is work in the summer and the hotels are full, we don’t hear one complaint about the Africans who live there, but once the winter comes and we are no longer needed, people again begin to say that we are a burden and that we wreck society. The state is aided by us with one hand and deports us with the other.

If you don’t want us here, don’t turn your rage at us, because we have no choice. I have nowhere to go. I just want to live in safety. I agree to be deported to any African country, other than Sudan. I just want to live with dignity, without people talking about the color of my skin, and I want to stop feeling hostility on the streets.

It is important for me to say that we are not a burden on society. We work for less than minimum wage in jobs that Israelis wouldn’t want to do themselves anyway. We pay rent, and make do with organizations that we established ourselves. It is hard for me to hear Eli Yishai’s statements in the media. Their impact on Israelis is tremendous, since in Israel everyone listens to the news.

The state is spreading negative propaganda against us – they say it is unsafe here because of us. I feel that the Jews are doing to us the exact same thing the Germans did to them. Don’t talk nonsense – we are in the 21st century. Don’t talk about skin color, don’t talk about slaves and don’t say that I stink. We want to see a real democracy – not only words.

I know that I will never have equal rights here. I just want to receive the few rights that I do deserve as a refugee.

The writer is a 28-year-old asylum seeker from Darfur.haaretz

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