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Safety but no stability in the “Backyard of Tel Aviv”: a case study of refugees in towns: Tel Aviv, Israel

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Introduction

Tel Aviv, Israel’s second-largest city, is situated on the Mediterranean coast. It is known as a youthful, international city with a thriving nightlife. Tel Aviv is also home to just under 20,000 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, about half of Israel’s refugee population.1 The first Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers crossed the Egyptian border into Israel around 2005, and the largest waves of migration from Africa occurred between 2009–2012.

Usually Eritreans and Sudanese who crossed the southern border, were detained by Israeli military, and then were given a bus ticket or were directed to Tel Aviv’s central bus station. This bus station is infamous, situated in the crime- and poverty-ridden neighborhood of Neve Sha’anan in the south of the city. The station covers a large area and contains entire floors that are abandoned. It is easy to get lost trying to exit the station or to find a destination.

When asylum seekers found their way out of the bus station, many walked the short distance to Levinsky Park. Israelis associate Levinsky Park with drug addicts, homeless people, and prostitutes; however, the park is used by migrants to connect to other co-nationals and find support. Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) use the areas surrounding the park to offer services such as housing and employment support to migrants. It is also the site of protests calling for rights for asylum seekers and justice in their home countries; it contains a library for the children of refugees; and it is surrounded by Eritrean and Sudanese coffee shops, restaurants, and stores. The park has become the epicenter of migrant activism.

This case report is based on our experiences in Tel Aviv over the last few years, as an asylum seeker from Darfur (Sudan) (Taj) and a Jewish immigrant who supports refugee rights (Gina).