World Refugee Day commemorated | NRS-Import | DW | 21.06.2012
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World Refugee Day commemorated

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to find the political will and the leadership to prevent and end the conflicts which are causing the refugee flows.

"We must work together to mobilize the political will and leadership to prevent and end the conflicts that trigger refugee flows. Despite budget constraints everywhere, we must not turn away from those in need. Refugees leave because they have no choice.We must choose to help," Ban Ki-moon said.

His call comes as the world commemorates the refugee day that falls on June 20 every year. According to official UN statistics, more than 43 million people live as refugees worldwide.

This year the UN wants to emphasize that refugees did not chose their fate, but we can all make the voluntary choice to help them.

Israel is a disappointment for African refugees

In Israel alone, tens of thousands of African refugees face deportation to their countries of origin. According to authorities, this is in a bid to counter illegal migration into the country.

Ibrahim is a refugee from Sudan who prefers to keep his identity secret. He's been sleeping rough in Lewinsky Park in the south of Tel Aviv since he escaped from his home country two months ago. His hopes of starting a new life have been dashed, because of visa and labor restrictions

Ibrahim's biggest problem is finding work prompting him to stand at the corner of the street with a hope of someone hiring him for manual work.

"They wrote in our visa not for work. That's the problem. So it is very difficult for us to find work."

A group of young men sleeping a park.

Lack of employment is one reason why refugees gather in the park

There are around 60,000 African refugees like Ibrahim in Israel, most of them from Sudan or Eritrea. They paid up to three thousand dollars each for the journey, yet on arrival there were no reception camps for them. Without work permits, most end up on the street with nothing to live on.

Mohammed is 26 and comes from Eritrea. He's been in Israel for a month. When he was in Eritrea he was told Israel was a good country, a democracy. He's now very disappointed.

"There is no respect for the refugees, there is no shelter, and there is no work, there is no anything," he says.

Tel Aviv residents help refugees

The refugees are subject to racial abuse.Some citizens of Tel Aviv alleged they are responsible for a rise in the crime rate and rightwing politicians claim they are a danger to the Jewish state. Other local residents were appalled by attitude and decided to take practical steps to help the refugees. They are supplying them with meals, feeding 700 a day. Yigal Shtayim started this welfare project.

"We got tired of racism so I feel I have to do everything I can to help them, as human beings," he says. He says he has taken this task upon himself because the Israeli government and the municipal authorities are trying to get rid of the refugees.

A man is holding a bowl of food.

Some residents of Tel Aviv are providing meals for the refugees

Earlier this month Israeli authorities detained 300 of the these refugees, who come from South Sudan, and has started sending them back home.

So far Abelazziz is not among them. He is from the Darfur region in northern Sudan and therefore enjoys special protection courtesy of the United Nations. But he still wonders what would happen to him if he were to be sent back and thought fills him with foreboding.

"Simply the one who looks like me is not acceptable in Sudan. The one who went to Israel and got back of course, he would go to jail or he would have to be killed," Abdelazzis fears.

However, Abdelaziz will be allowed to stay in Israel though not in Lewinsky Park. For refugees like him, who cannot be deported, the Israeli government is erecting an internment camp in the Negev desert that is far from Israel's cities and parks.

Author:Emilie Baujard / im

Editor:Mark Caldwell

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