Fugee Fridays is a volunteer humanitarian initiative, founded in 2008 in response to the acute distress of the growing community of African asylum seekers living in Tel Aviv. Our purpose is to help address this community’s immediate needs while nurturing their independence, raising awareness of their plight, fostering positive cultural exchange between Israelis and Africans living in Israel and empowering both the refugee community and our volunteers. We organize a number of projects for the benefit of the African community, including food collection from the Carmel Market, language classes, children’s activities and a growing list of community development projects. Everything we do is guided by our belief in simple, elegant problem-solving which connects urgent needs with available and sustainable solutions. We hope that, by setting a personal example, we can inspire others to create similar social action projects that benefit their communities.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Seeking Refuge Behind a Blue Door in Neve Shaanan

By Daniel Cherrin

On the Neve Sha’anan pedestrian mall, between the old and the new Central Bus Stations, there is a blue metal door. This unmarked door conceals a shelter housing Sudanese refugees from Darfur.

Until very recently, between 80-100 Darfuri men lived in the 5-room shelter at any given time. The shelter was, for most, an intermediate stop between prison and a rented apartment.

In mid-September, however, immigration police arrested several residents of the shelter. Hamed, a Darfuri refugee himself who has been running the shelter since March, decided to evacuate it, in order to protect its residents from deportation or incarceration.

Many of the residents are now scattered around the city, or have left for other cities, such as Ashdod, where there is factory work to be found and a local community of refugees from Darfur. The few that remain in the shelter are teenage students and a few wounded adults.

Even before the evacuation, the shelter had difficulty paying its bills and was in constant danger of being closed down. But the residents managed to scrape by, with everyone pitching in the little they had to cover expenses.

A few months ago, another large shelter across from the Old Central Bus Station was closed. This shelter was the first one that we visited, way back in February 2008. Back then, hundreds of people were living in the building. People were sleeping on staircases, and the dozens of boxes of food that we brought were not enough to feed everyone.

These refugees are not economic immigrants; they have been driven out of their homeland by war and conflict. These shelters provide them with some sense of stability, so that they can go out and look for work and better housing in the frenetic metropolis that is Tel Aviv.

These photos reflect the life that existed in the shelter, before and after its occupants were forced to leave.

Daniel Cherrin is a photographer/filmmaker, activist and cofounder of Fugee Fridays. He can be contacted at nooshguy@gmail.com.

click here to view this article on haaretz.com

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