[For Johns Hopkins Public Health magazine, USA, also published in Faces of Exile website, Israel]
“Infiltrators” is the name with which the Israeli government calls African asylum seekers. The official explanation for this term is that they come from enemy countries and should be seen as an enemy force within the state of Israel. As I see it, this is just a method of scaring local population in order to increase discrimination and racism against them.
The great majority of “infiltrators” crossed the Israeli-Egyptian border on foot, taking high risks with Bedouin smugglers (there are countless reports of kidnaps, tortures and rapes) during the last five years. A big number of asylum seekers live next to the central bus station or around Levinsky park in the south of Tel Aviv.
Their situation in Israel resembles life in limbo: the majority cannot be deported because of international conventions signed by Israel, which prevents the state to protect civilians running away from violence. However, the government refuses to issue them a proper refugee status, giving them instead a 3-month-visa. This document may be renewed, but it does not give them the right to work or own a business. This situation leads to an increase of illegal activities among asylum seekers, which, in turn, leads to fear and discrimination from local population.
Israeli authorities constantly offer them the option of “voluntarily deportation”, but from their perspective, this is impossible. Mutasim Ali, one of the leaders of the Sudanese community, explains that if the authorities in his home country would find out that he has been living in Israel, he will face tortures or execution upon arrival. Infiltrators
This project couldn’t be done without the help and support of local NGO African Refugee Development Center.