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African migrants protest in Israel

| Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, 9:09 p.m.

JERUSALEM — In an unusual show of strength by one of the weakest groups in Israeli society, thousands of African migrants demonstrated on Sunday in Tel Aviv to protest their treatment by the Israeli government.

An estimated 10,000 migrants from African countries poured into Tel-Aviv's Rabin Square, chanting slogans that demanded human rights and opposed government policies aimed at discouraging them from staying in Israel by forbidding them from working and placing them in detention.

As Israel's policies grow more heavy-handed, anxiety and fear of jail, deportation and poverty are driving the migrants to protest more actively.

The protest occurred amid calls for a three-day strike. Although most are not permitted to work in Israel, many do, mostly cleaning and in other menial jobs at restaurants and hotels.

Some proprietors of Tel Aviv businesses employing migrants gave their blessing to the strike and did dishes and cleaned while their African staff protested.

Omri Dosh, a cafe owner, told Israeli media that he believes the migrants' struggle is legitimate.

“If they're already here, they must be cared for and not put into jail,” he said. “They've done nothing wrong.”

Hundreds more demonstrated in Eilat, Israel's southernmost city and a Red Sea resort town bordering Egypt.

Israel is home to a community of 54,000 Africans who entered the country illegally through Egypt over the past decade, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan.

The Africans say they are asylum seekers and refugees.

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