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Jerusalem not a safe haven for African immigrants

6/6/2012, 1:19 p.m.
June 5 (GIN) - An early morning arson attack on the home of African asylum...
Jerusalem not a safe haven for African immigrants

June 5 (GIN) - An early morning arson attack on the home of African asylum seekers from Eritrea, marked an upsurge in hostilities towards Africans by Israeli citizens.

Dozens of foreigners, including families with children, lived in the building where the fire broke out, on Jaffa Road, one of the city's central arteries. Four residents suffered burns and smoke inhalation. Graffiti in Hebrew sprayed on the building read: "Get out of the neighborhood."

Arson attacks were also reported in Tel Aviv and last month several homes and a kindergarten were firebombed. In Eilat, an African hotel employee was beaten by Israeli beach-goers. Two weeks ago, Israeli youths in southern Tel Aviv smashed storefront windows in a refugee neighborhood, police said.

While officially condemning the violence, the government seemed to share the anti-immigrant fever with talk of deporting or imprisoning refugees. One lawmaker called on Israeli soldiers to shoot any refugees attempting to cross the border with Egypt.

Meeting with his party members Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to complete a 150-mile, 16-foot-tall steel fence along the Israeli-Egyptian border; to speed up construction of a massive detention facility able to hold up to 10,000 immigrants; and to step up efforts to deport foreigners.

Some 60,000 Africans who sought refuge in Jerusalem now face prosecution under a new law allowing authorities to detain illegal migrants for up to three years.