Last updated: 30 May, 2012

Israeli police arrest six at rival immigration demonstrations

Israeli police arrested six people at demonstrations on Wednesday night against — and in support of — a community of African migrants who have been the focus of race riots in south Tel Aviv.

Watched by large numbers of police, some on horseback, opponents of the migrants’ presence in the city’s rundown southern neighbourhoods held a banner reading: “Human rights — Not at our expense,” while some chanted: “Africa is not here.”

A short distance away a smaller group chanted: “They have a right to be here!”

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld put the number of anti-immigrant protesters at about 500, and said that there were about 100 pro-immigrant demonstrators.

“Six people were arrested altogether… for causing public disturbances, blocking roads etc,” he told AFP, adding that there was no physical violence.

Riots erupted last Wednesday when a protest by 1,000 people against the rising number of Africans moving into the area turned violent.

The riots sparked shock in Israel, but also prompted top-level calls for the immediate arrest and expulsion of tens of thousands of African migrants, most of whom originate from Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea.

Interior ministry statistics show there are more than 60,000 African immigrants living illegally in Israel. Some are refugees fleeing persecution back home, while others are economic migrants.