AFRICANGLOBE – As missile warning sirens sound across Israel, tens of thousands of African refugees have allegedly been left confused and alone, without information from the government on what to do to protect themselves and their families, Ha’aretz reported.
These African asylum seekers in Tel Aviv – almost all of whom are legally refugees under international law but who have not been treated as such by Israel – reportedly say they have not received instructions on what to do when missile alert sirens sound, and those African asylum seekers who have been imprisoned in detention centers in the south of the country not far from Gaza say the instructions they were given are unclear and the fortified rooms they are supposed to use are often locked during attacks so they cannot enter them.
Outside of the detention centers, the main problem seems to be a lack of instructions in African languages.
“This is a new experience for us. Like everyone else, we’re frightened when bombs go off, but we don’t know what to do when the siren is heard. We’ve received no help from the authorities. During the day the children are in kindergarten where there’s a protected space, but later we’re all at home. We didn’t know we had to go out to the stairwell. Now a friend told me that when the alarm sounds we have to go to the stairwell, but we haven’t received any official instructions on what to do,” Gabriel Sekela, a refugee from Eritrea, told Ha’aretz adding that “We saw there was information from the army on Facebook in Tigrinya [spoken by many Eritreans] and spread it, but I don’t know how many people got it.”
In the Holot concentration camp in the Negev near the boarder with Egypt and Gaza, prison authorities reportedly posted instructions in Arabic. But that hasn’t eliminated the problems.
“There are small protected rooms but often during the sirens they are locked. They call out instructions through megaphones but only in Hebrew, not very clearly, and not everyone understands. Before the siren they held a drill but not many people took part. I told the guard that I heard a drill had been held but the protected rooms aren’t open. He said it was only a drill and isn’t important,” Sadik, an asylum seeker from Sudan, told the paper.
The Israel Prison Service denies those claims, calling them “groundless.”
“[Those] claims are groundless.…The Holot center was planned for emergency situations with numerous protected rooms in every part. During an alarm, instructions are given on loudspeakers in Hebrew, English and Tigrinya. Before this operation we held several drills and the Home Front Command’s instructions are posted on the notice boards. No rockets were fired in this direction and we had only one false alarm, but the facilities are prepared for any scenario. The protected rooms are usually locked up…and when an alarm sounds the prison guards nearby unlock them and let the internees in,” the prison service said.
The City of Tel Aviv municipality also denied that it wasn’t properly informing African asylum seekers of what to do when sirens sound.
“Every municipal service such as protection, evacuation and assistance, if needed, will be given any person in the city’s jurisdiction,” the city reportedly said in a statement, adding that it provides these asylum seekers it calls migrants and infiltrators with details on what to do in an emergency and said it plans on distributing leaflets with this information in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Tigrinya sometime in the next few days – several days after missile warning began sounding in Tel Aviv.
By: Shmarya Rosenberg
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