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Ethiopian Immigrants in Jerusalem Protest Evacuation from Absorption Center


Some 100 Ethiopian immigrants protested in the capital on Monday against the looming evacuation of their absorption center in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevaseret Zion.

The scheduled evacuation, set to take place is less than two months, is the result of a decision by the owner of the land, the Jewish Agency Employees’ Pension Fund, to sell it to private individuals. Three years ago, it was revealed that the agency had transferred the land to its pension fund in place of money that it owed.

The concerned parties reached an agreement at court that gave the tenants three years to evacuate.

Those three years are almost up, but the lawyer who represents the absorption center tenants, Nadav Haetzni, has appealed to the court for another three-year extension, arguing that promises to provide the tenants with permanent housing solutions have, for the most part, not been fulfilled.

The agency has offered to move the elderly to other absorption centers in cities such as Beersheba and Kiryat Gat, but they object to being uprooted from where they have built their lives and where their families reside.

“They need to have state-funded apartments,” Haetzni said.

On Monday, protesters marched from the High Court of Justice to the Finance Ministry and ended at Wohl Rose Park, opposite the Knesset.

They waved banners with slogans such as: “We won’t leave without a solution,” “You only want us for the army and for elections, apart from that we’re not equal?” and “Stop the racism, stop the discrimination.”

“For years they have been lying to us brazenly,” campaign leader Galagay Tepra said in a statement.

“All the promises that were made in the agreement have not been implemented, and now we are being expelled from the only place that is considered our home. The biggest chutzpa is that the Absorption Ministry is not answering us. Nobody is bothering to answer us. We will not agree to be second-class citizens. We will fight until the end.”

According to the Immigration Absorption Ministry, it acted in accordance with the 2014 agreement to operate the absorption center for a period of three years, to stop accepting new immigrants to the center and to continue offering permanent housing solutions to those tenants who are eligible.

The ministry said in a statement that it “does not wish to continue to operate it for a long period of time unnecessarily. This is because, by its very nature, the absorption center is a place for temporary housing for those living there.” The ministry noted that at the end of the three-year period, two-thirds of the absorption center will be unoccupied.