As many as 25,000 asylum applicants and their supporters have demonstrated in central Tel Aviv against plans for a mass expulsion. Rights groups are optimistic that a delay by the top court could keep them in Israel.
The deportations were due to begin in a week's time, but Israel's supreme court earlier this month temporarily blocked the controversial plan after a legal challenge from groups opposed to the deportations. The Israeli government has been given until Monday to file its response.
Several migrant aid organizations publicized Saturday’s protest on social media, calling for alternative solutions to the deportations, including moving the migrants outside of Tel Aviv, where most of them live.
Support groups are concerned people's lives would be put in danger if they are expelled to African countries. They said the government’s plan is a stain on Israel's image as a refuge for Jewish migrants.
Among those addressing the rally was Sudanese migrant Monim Haron, who told the crowd how he had "survived genocide" in his home state.
"For 14 years the government has deliberately attacked its citizens with chemical weapons," he was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel. "Just this week, the region where I was born and raised was attacked again, and again dozens of people were killed, mostly women and children.
Israel's Interior Ministry said there are some 42,000 African migrants in the country, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea. Most of them began arriving in 2007, through the border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Israel: Migrants must leave
The government insisted it has no legal obligation to allow them to stay but has also said it will exempt children and those of retirement age from the deportation order — although local media reported that many men over 67 have received expulsion notices.