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      UNHCR Blasts Israel: They Are Refugees, Not Illegal Aliens

      UN criticizes Israel’s policy towards illegal immigrants, says they should not be detained and their refugee requests be considered.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 1/6/2014, 1:14 AM

      Illegal infiltrators protest in Tel Aviv
      Illegal infiltrators protest in Tel Aviv
      Yoni Kempinski

      The United Nations on Sunday night criticized Israel’s policy towards illegal immigrants, as thousands of them protested in Tel Aviv, demanding that Israel recognize them as refugees and grant them asylum.

      The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) released a statement in which it accused Israel of “sowing fear and chaos” among the illegal aliens who, it said, should be referred to as “asylum seekers” and not “infiltrators”.

      “We demand that the government examine the asylum requests of the foreigners, and stop the large-scale arrests in south Tel Aviv,” said the UN agency, adding that while it supported the holding facility for infiltrators in southern Israel, it was not acceptable in its present form as the agency deemed it to be a long-term detention center.

      Infiltration from Africa has been a major problem for Israel over the past several years, as tens of thousands have entered Israel trying to find work and have settled in working class neighborhoods in southern Tel Aviv, Eilat and many other cities.

      Residents of these neighborhoods have been suffering from endless harassment, fear and violence perpetrated by the many illegal infiltrators.

      While Israel has succeeded in getting some of the illegal immigrants to return to their home countries and has prevented a new influx from entering by building a fence along the border with Egypt, the problem remains with the illegal infiltrators who are still in Israel.

      Israel recently approved an amendment to the law to prevent infiltration of illegal immigrants, which allows police to jail illegal migrants for up to 12 months in special detention facilities.

      In response, some 200 illegal entrants to Israel ran away from the special open facility in Holot in southern Israel and protested in Jerusalem. Protesters said the open facility, which they must return to each night, is essentially a prison. Many accused the government of racism.

      When this action did not help, the illegal aliens announced a general strike, which began Sunday. They assembled at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and demanded that the government allow them to stay in Israel and work legally.

      The illegal entrants argue that they should be given refugee status. Those illegal entrants who Israeli authorities recognize as refugees are allowed to work in the country and are eligible for benefits, but authorities argue that the majority are simply economic migrants and not eligible for refugee status.