‘We need rights as refugees’: African asylum seeker on why he’s marching to Jerusalem

Filman Abraham. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Filman Abraham. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Two weeks ago on Christmas day I was on my way to a political meeting with other African asylum seekers when I saw unmarked cars and buses pull into a dim parking lot beside Levinsky Park. Men dressed in plain clothes stopped every African on the Tel Aviv street and asked for their paper work. In Israel even though we who fled conflict do not have refugee status, we have conditional release orders, a temporary license that allows staying in Israel legally, but not working or seeking medical care.

The men identified themselves as being from the Ministry of Immigration. They asked for the Africans’ paperwork, to show that their conditional release orders were up to date. We have to renew these documents every three months and the original, which they also wanted, is big, so most of us keep it at home. On that day everyone who did not have the original was arrested. They did not even ask if the people they were arresting were fathers, or had families, nothing.

My friend Ahron and I were standing in the middle of Neve Sha’anan Street, the center of culture for refugees and immigrants Israel. Some of these plain clothed men asked for Ahron and my identification documents. Ahron’s had an appointment the next day to re-new his papers. The men separated from me. I followed them and they took him to a corner in the parking lot where border police shoved him into a car. I saw other Africans in the car, Sudanese and Eritreans.

When we, Sudanese and Eritreans came, we came from the same direction. Through the Sinai we entered Israel together and now live in the same neighborhood and we face the same problems. Now the Israeli government is jailing refugees that were once living freely, with documents of non-removal inside of the cities. Israel placed theses people here, and now they are rounding them up.

The immigration authorities then took Ahron to jail in Ramle. I’ve talked to him twice, but I haven’t heard from him since two days after his arrest.

When I first entered Israel in 2011 from Eritrea, I crossed the desert border at four in the morning. There were 29 people with me. The Egyptian army shot at us. It looked like war. But everyone entered safely. At six or seven in the morning Israeli soldiers met us and took us to an army camp. They asked if any among us were hurt and if we needed to go to the hospital. They were really, really nice and that gave us hope.

Me, I went to the hospital because barbed wire was stuck in my leg. The next day I went to an army detention camp. After 15 days I was questioned: where are you from? How did you come here? Were you robbed in Sinai? Then I was given a document in Hebrew that they told me said I entered the country illegally. I signed it then I got my conditional release paperwork and one free bus ticket from Beersheva to Tel Aviv.

When I got to Tel Aviv it was winter and raining. My leg still hurt. The bus driver told us to walk to Levinsky Park. No one on the bus knew where the park was, or that it was where Israel was dumping refugees. We asked Israeli people on the street in English where was the park and no one answered us. Finally we saw an Ethiopian man. We saw his kipa, but we thought our chance was fifty-fifty because he worked at the bus station. We formed a circle around him and said, “please, please show us where the park is, because we only feel safe to talk to you.”

From the next month I lived in the park. The cut in my leg got infected. I used to clean it from a water fountain. One day I was sitting on a sofa in the garden and a man approached me and he offered that I could sleep in his area. He gave me two blankets. Now he’s back in Sudan, because he hated the life in Levinsky Park. He felt it was worse than Sudan because people looked at him like he was a slave.

Today I live in an apartment in Florentin, a bohemian neighborhood that separates the refugees from Israeli society. I have a job, I’m a community organizer with the Eritrean community, and I am a volunteer translator for an Israeli elementary school. But always I’m suffering because since Christmas I can no longer renew my conditional release order. Quietly, in December, maybe the 15th of the month, I don’t know, Israeli police began arresting people in the street like my friend Ahron. And even inside of the Ministry of Interior, when African people line up to renew their paperwork, the Israeli police pull up buses and take us to jail. For those that get to meet with someone from the government, instead of having their residency permits renewed they are given something we call “the white paper,” which is a summons to show up at prison.

I escaped from danger in Eritrea. I escaped through danger in the Sinai. I thought finally now in Israel I will get rest. But now I feel differently. I feel the story of danger is returning again. I saved myself once, but now I have to do it again. So tomorrow I am going to Jerusalem in front of the Knesset to ask for my right to asylum by a fair and transparent process.

About Filman Abraham

Filman Abraham is a 24 year-old Eritrean asylum seeker living in Tel Aviv. He is an organizer with the March to Freedom, a three-day refugee strike in Israel where 20,000 protested at eight embassies, and offices of the United Nations and European Commission.
Posted in Activism, Israeli Government, On the ground reports

{ 41 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Good job Filman and kudos to Mondoweiss for giving space to Filman and the protesters.

    Maybe it will be the african immigrants that will once and for all expose the racist policies of Israel to the world?

  2. Ira Glunts says:

    Filman, Best wishes on your march to Jerusalem and on your and your comrades fight for justice. And thanks so much for your post.

    • Citizen says:

      @ Ira Glunts

      Yes, I wish to thank Filman too, and I wish him well in his fight to be treated as a full human being, and the same for all the refugees.

  3. yrn says:

    Justpassingby

    “Maybe it will be the african immigrants that will once and for all expose”

    Read this human rights world report 2013
    See how you and this site is hypocritical.
    If it was not to spew Israel, no one here would raise the situation of Asylum in Europe.
    Read discover Greece.
    The new government continued its predecessor’s heavy-handed immigration control approach. Construction of a 12.5-kilometer fence along the border with Turkey, begun in February, neared completion at this writing. A vast sweep operation launched in August had by mid-November led to more than 50,000 presumed undocumented migrants being detained for questioning based on appearance alone, and more than 3,700 arrests. By the end of October, over 1,900 of these had been deported and 1,690 had returned home under the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) voluntary program. The operation continued at this writing.

    link to hrw.org

    • yrn

      The racism in Israel is there for anyone to see, and guys like you defend it. Shame on you.

      • @Justpassing:

        Please, explain how yrn “defended racism” in his comment. He only showed you that the problem is a global problem, not “Israeli” problem, as you all try to show. Uploading this video of “persecutions” countless of times (no new?) won’t answer the comment.

      • yrn says:

        Justpassingby

        Racism is Everywhere to see, in your country too you hypocrite.

    • NickJOCW says:

      yrn, What you imply might be true were accounts of these demonstrations appearing only in MW. However they are being covered globally. It would be astonishing indeed if Israel treated migrants any better than Palestinians but it is not the way Israel treats migrants but the demonstrations themselves that are making headlines all over. link to trtrussian.com

    • Citizen says:

      @ yrn

      Don’t you Zionists ever tire of telling us, in effect, “Hey, don’t look here, look over there!” Israel deserves special attention by all Americans because it has a “special relationship” with the USA, as both American politicians and Israeli politicians never tire of telling us. We protect Israel with our UN SC veto regularly, and we give Israel by far the biggest chunk of our foreign aid tax dollars.

  4. Mayhem says:

    Seriously this story is just being used as a vehicle to attack Israel when its immigration policies are in fact no different from other countries. How about some concern about how the Egyptians shoot these refugees in cold blood? How about some outrage about REAL racism in the Arab world?

    • Mayhem

      You should be ashamed of yourself for supporting racist policies against non jews. Your comment says alot about people who support Israel.

    • Sumud says:

      Before you start claiming Israel’s immigration policies are no different from any other country, can you tell me how many non-jewish refugees were granted full Israeli citizenship last year, or any other year…?

      How about some outrage about REAL racism in the Arab world?

      • Longest military occupation in modern history?
      • Country responsible for creating and perpetuating the largest refugee population in the world?
      • Country in violation of most UN SC resolutions in the world?

      Of course all 3 answers are Israel.

      Don’t sell yourself short Mayhem, Israel is definitely among the most racist countries in the arab world.

      • Sumud;

        Fortunately, Falman Abraham thinks different than you. Don’t forget that the direction of the asylum seekers was from Egypt to Israel, from soldiers that shot them to soldiers that offered them medical treatment and shelter. No wonder he fights to stay in Israel, the most racist country in the Arab world. Good Luck, Falman!! God bless you!!

        • amigo says:

          Mahane 1/2or 3???.

          7TH REQUEST.

          When are you going to condemn the Israeli government for placing the blame for the price tagger attacks on the victims because they failed to protect there property according to goi.

          I intend to keep asking and pointing out your refusal to answer a simple question.

          It should be easy for one of you 3 to answer unless there is disagreement in the Mahane clan.

          BTW, you do Israel an injustice.It is probably the most racist nation on the planet and not just the ME.

        • Sumud says:

          Mahane – suggest you read the entire article before suggesting Falman Abraham is a fan of Israel.

          Mahane, perhaps instead you can tell me how many non-jewish refugees were granted full citizenship in Israel last year, or any other year?

          I asked Mayhem but he or she hasn’t responded, must have clocked off already.

    • American says:

      ” How about some outrage about REAL racism in the Arab world?”…Mayhem

      We’ve expressed outrage about racism and religious discrimination in the Arab world and other places.
      Including the US.
      The difference is not all countries immigration policies are based on ‘racism’ or religious discrimination–they are based on different problems or issues.
      The other difference is racism is not the ‘offical government policy’ of most countries–including the US.
      Israel’s is based on both racism and religious discrimination —-while they keep claiming they are a ‘Western’ civilization and a democracy “like the US’.

    • talknic says:

      Mayhem …. Israel when its immigration policies are in fact no different from other countries”

      Uh huh. Whatever delusions your told to have

      link to immigrationlaw.goop.co.il

      link to usa.gov

      “How about some concern about how the Egyptians shoot these refugees in cold blood?

      Under the Israel/Egypt peace treaty Egypt is required to prevent any infiltration into Israel

      “How about some outrage about REAL racism in the Arab world?”

      Like Egypt should ignore the Israel/Egypt Peace Treaty?

      • @talknic:

        Heartless!!! no one word about the Egyptian army shot at Falman. All you know to write is just “laws” and more “laws”. Heartless!!!

        • amigo says:

          “How about some concern about how the Egyptians shoot these refugees in cold blood?”Mayhem

          “Under the Israel/Egypt peace treaty Egypt is required to prevent any infiltration into Israel”talknic response to mayhem.

          Mahane to Talknic.

          “Heartless!!! no one word about the Egyptian army shot at Falman. All you know to write is just “laws” and more “laws”. Heartless!!!” mahane

          Read Talknic,s response numbskull.The USA has been paying Eygpt for years to keep refugees out and apparently some Egyptians take their jobs seriously.

          What is heartless is the USA paying to have the Falman,s of the world shot.

          As to your claims of heartlessness, you couldn,t give a rodent,s posterior about Falman or his fellow travelers.

          Hypocrite.

          And again, when are you going to condemn the GOI for blaming the price tag
          attacks on the victims.

        • amigo says:

          “All you know to write is just “laws” and more “laws”. Heartless!!!” mahane 1/2 or 3????.

          Which laws are heartless mahane.

          The ones that Israel uses to oppress Palestinians or the ones that allow show Israel for what it is?.

          A vile law breaking rogue nation that is on it,s way over the cliff.

          Sooner the better I say.Grab your parachute mahane.I don,t know where you are going to land.We don,t need potato salesmen in Ireland .We already have plenty and we certainly do not need land thieves or oppressors.We just got rid of one lot of those.

        • talknic says:

          @MahaneYehude1 “Heartless!!! no one word about the Egyptian army shot at Falman. All you know to write is just “laws” and more “laws”. Heartless!!!”

          Save your pathetic false concern for non-Jewish refugees for some idiot you can convince potato head. I haven’t pulled any triggers nor would I ever support pulling the trigger on a refugee or any other innocent

          You tried to pin it on the Egyptians without considering the implications of Israel’s involvement in WHY the Egyptians are OBLIGED to take pot shots at refugees as you put it, ” in cold blood”. Then when you’re given the reason Egyptians are obliged to prevent refugees from breaching the border (which isn’t even Israeli for a major part link to wp.me ) you attempt to paint me as being heartless.

          You’re fake through and through as this perfect example shows link to mondoweiss.net Your schtick is broken buddy. Time to reappear under another (ab)user name

    • NickJOCW says:

      Migration is a major international problem and it is the job of responsible journalists to highlight it. Look at the reports from Italy link to telegraph.co.uk. It’s absurd, but characteristic, to present Israel as a poor little victim and it’s insulting to the intelligence of those confronting so serious an issue. Heavens above! You would think Israel the only thorn in the bosom of the world.

    • Citizen says:

      What other country only takes in immigrants of a single religio-ethnic group?

    • @Mayhem, Filman is trying to get asylum in Israel, which is temporary. He doesn’t want to immigrate. And actually, Israel’s policy on asylum is very different than other countries. Since 1948 they have given refugee status to under 200 only.

      In the US, Eritreans like Filman have 30% acceptance rate. In Israel, the Israeli authorities won’t even look at the paperwork. The U.S. and most other countries signed on to refugee conventions (conventions Israel helped draft post-WWII) also recognize Eritreans as “priority” for asylum because their conditions in their home country is so dire.

  5. “When I first entered Israel in 2011 from Eritrea, I crossed the desert border at four in the morning. There were 29 people with me. The Egyptian army shot at us. It looked like war. But everyone entered safely. At six or seven in the morning Israeli soldiers met us and took us to an army camp. They asked if any among us were hurt and if we needed to go to the hospital. They were really, really nice and that gave us hope.”

    Thank you very much Filman for your honesty. It is a nice example to all Mondoweiss’s authors shows that you can critic Israel but still tell the truth without distorting it. Wish you success in your march to my city and in your future life in Israel. Your post in MW and your march to Jerusalem only show that, although all the troubles, you are living in a democratic country that allows freedom of speech and protest. God bless you!!!

    • amigo says:

      “Your post in MW and your march to Jerusalem only show that, although all the troubles, you are living in a democratic country that allows freedom of speech and protest. God bless you!!!”the mahanes.

      Yes, if you are Jewish and more so if you are Jewish and white.

      Lay off the beetle juice mahane.

    • “Your post in MW and your march to Jerusalem only show that, although all the troubles, you are living in a democratic country that allows freedom of speech and protest. God bless you!!!”

      Black immigrants protest against racism and you dare saying this regime is democratic? You have lost it real bad with the hasbara.

      • @Justpassing:

        Yes, Sir, I dare!!! Israel is the only country in the ME where non-citizen asylum seeker can demonstrate in front of the parliament and no one shoots him. If you have little patience, please wait to see the consequences of this protest.

    • seafoid says:

      ” Wish you success in your march to my city ”

      Christ. Will you go to Kalandia this afternoon and demolish the checkpoint while you are at it ?

      • @seafoid:

        Christ. Will you go to Kalandia this afternoon and demolish the checkpoint while you are at it ?

        With the help of the Christ, I will be happy to demolish Kalandia checkpoint when I will be sure that not even one terrorist is threatening the lives of our children.

        • seafoid says:

          YESHA is the biggest threat to the future of your kids
          All that torture goes through the karma exchange
          Judaism has a big parcel waiting for it

  6. talknic says:

    @MahaneYehude1 Your post in MW… show that, although all the troubles, you are living in a democratic country that allows freedom of speech”

    Israel is in the US? WOW!!!!

    This blog is co-edited by Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Weiss is 56 and lives in New York state. Horowitz is 39 and lives in Atlanta link to mondoweiss.net

    “Your … march to Jerusalem only show that, although all the troubles, you are living in a democratic country that allows freedom of speech and protest.”

    Over 200 African asylum-seekers who walked from an ‘open’ detention facility in Israel’s southern desert to Jerusalem to protest a new law that allows their indefinite detention were “violently” arrested on Tuesday by Israeli police and will be taken to prison, an immigrant-rights watchdog said.

    “Immigration police is violently arresting refugees at the Knesset who marched to demand the right to liberty,” the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an Israeli group focused on the rights of refugees and undocumented migrants, said on its Twitter account.

    HRM added the African migrants, who it reported were crying and calling for “freedom” and “no more prison,” will now spend up to three months in prison, before being sent back to indefinite detention in an ‘open’ center. link to america.aljazeera.com

    • @talknic:

      Look, I sent you some information about the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia. I recommend you, instead of analyse each word in my comments, to fight against your evil and criminal government while I fight my government. Till today, Israel didn’t drop any asylum seeker to the sea like your government. Your leaders must be judged as criminals one by one for those crimes against humanity.

      • amigo says:

        “I recommend you, instead of analyse each word in my comments, to fight against your evil and criminal government while I fight my government.”mahane clan

        So, you claim you fight your gov.So when will you condemn your gov for laying the blame for Price tag attacks on the victims by accusing the Palestinians of failing to protect their property from illegal squatter violence.

        When you are fighting your gov on this issue, do please ask them to send some advice to the Palestinians on how to defend themselves without arms and against the illegal settlers AND ” the IDF.

        You three are so full of zio crap.

      • amigo says:

        “Till today, Israel didn’t drop any asylum seeker to the sea like your government.”Clan mahane.

        Their boat was refused entry.They were not dropped in the sea.

        But Israel did pay off asylum seekers(non Jews) $ 3500 to get of your so called light unto the nations.And Israel is building another prison for the refugees that they cannot get out of.See below.

        link to haaretz.com

        “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted unanimously on Sunday to allocate NIS 440 million to deal with African asylum-seekers in the coming year, with most of the money going toward a new detention center in the Negev. The ministers likewise voted as one to support a bill coming to the Knesset on Tuesday that would effectively keep the illegal migrants inside the detention center around the clock, even though it is billed as an “open” facility. ” Haaretz.

      • talknic says:

        MahaneYehude1 ” I recommend you, instead of analyse each word in my comments, to fight against your evil and criminal government”

        I recommend you go peel a spud bud. I don’t need your inane comments to prompt me to oppose my Govt’s idiotic policies on boat arrivals. Fact is it’s only boat people the Australian Govt beats up on. Asylum seekers arrive in Australia by plane every day and none of them are thrown into the briny.

        ” while I fight my government.”

        You’re excusing your govt, who is NOT granting asylum to these poor souls.

        “Till today, Israel didn’t drop any asylum seeker to the sea like your government. Your leaders must be judged as criminals one by one for those crimes against humanity.”

        Your Government has the Egyptians shoot them at the border buddy and; then if they make it past a hail of bullets demanded by the Israeli/Egyptian Peace Treaty, they’re refused asylum by YOUR Govt.

        Australia has at least accepted some 90% of those who make it.

        • yrn says:

          talknic
          “Your Government has the Egyptians shoot them”
          Another stupid argument from intellectual talknic

          So now Israel governs the Egyptians too, guess those soldiers that refused to shoot those asylum, were trialed by the Israeli government.

          There is no limit to stupidity in MW.

  7. seafoid says:

    Both the African refugees and the Palestinians have rights that are not recognised in JDisneyland. Fair play to the former for challenging the madness.

  8. “JDisneyland” #FTW @seafoid

    • yrn says:

      Allison Deger
      Yes I like JDisneyland, it has a connotation to good time,fun, smiling people, happy people.
      But Disney was an Antisemite.
      and BTW Playwood is not accepted in MW. it insults the intellectuals here.

  9. weiss says:

    Only sadists enjoy contemplating the pain and humiliation of other human beings